Richard J. Meyer, a real estate investor who headed an Anaheim bank, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to fraud and other charges in a 14-count indictment stemming from the 1986 collapse of a Northern California savings and loan.
Meyer, 54, was released on his own recognizance after entering his plea before U.S. Magistrate F. Steele Langford in San Francisco. No trial date was set. Meyer faces a maximum penalty of 70 years in prison and fines totaling $2.6 million.
The charges stem from the failure of Cal America Savings & Loan in Walnut Creek, which was solely owned by Meyer. Cal America had $414 million in assets when it failed. Its cleanup is expected to cost taxpayers $110 million.
Meyer said he denied the charges "unequivocally and absolutely."
"There was no wrongdoing by myself, no immoral wrongdoing by myself," he said. "The allegations set forth are without any basis. I was very surprised that they took the action they took. I would think that the government has better things to do."
Meyer's lawyer, William M. Goodman of San Francisco, said that the "length of the investigation and the age of the case should tell you something about whether it's a strong case."
But Assistant U.S. Atty. John D. Lyons said the evidence is as solid and fresh as ever.
Lyons said he isn't worried about witnesses having faded memories or even fading from the scene. He said that the FBI in Concord brought the case to prosecutors two years ago and that investigators have spent most of the time since gathering the documents necessary to prove the case.
Cal America's former chairman and its former chief financial officer also are named in the indictment as unindicted co-conspirators.
Meyer is accused of using federally insured deposits to make high-risk investments and to benefit himself, mainly through loans that aided real estate projects in which he had an interest.
The criminal charges also accuse him of causing Cal America to pay off his personal debts and to finance such luxury items as a $114,605 Rolls-Royce, a $25,000 monthly operating bill for an airplane and a $1.5-million ski-resort home in Park City, Utah.
He also is accused of causing the thrift to pay his ex-wife $376,000 for interior decorating services at Cal America and two subsidiaries and to pay a girlfriend $110,000 for interior decorating at the Utah home.
Meyer, who operates a commercial real estate investment company in La Habra, also is the founding chairman of Pacific Inland Bancorp, the parent company of Pacific Inland Bank in Anaheim. After the indictment was filed against him on April 24, he notified bank board members about the charges.
On May 11, Meyer resigned from his posts as corporate chairman, bank director and loan committee member, said Ronald L. Askew, the bank's chairman.