Confidante of Failed S&L;'s Late Owner Sued by U.S.

Times Staff Writer

The business manager and confidante of the owner of a failed Santa Ana savings and loan has been sued by federal regulators who allege she defrauded the institution of more than $21 million and caused its collapse last month.

In a civil suit filed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corp. accused Janet McKinzie and North America Savings & Loan's late owner, Duayne D. Christensen, of illegal self-dealing, violations of federal laws and "conflicts of interest of the grossest order."

In related developments:

- A California Highway Patrol investigator said it appears Christensen was not physically impaired when his speeding automobile smashed head-on into a freeway bridge support, killing him just hours before his savings and loan was seized by government regulators on Jan. 16.

- Two of Christensen's children indicated that they intend to contest in a Nevada court their father's will, which names McKinzie as sole beneficiary.

Suit's Charges

The federal agency's suit claims that McKinzie, a paid consultant to the savings and loan, was the " de facto vice chairman" of North America Savings. The suit charges that she took part in falsifying information and forging $11-million worth of certificates of deposit and siphoning $19.8 million from the savings and loan for her own benefit.

The agency, which put the institution into receivership Jan. 23, also claims that McKinzie and a company she owns collected more than $1.8 million in undocumented commissions and expenses and had the savings and loan pay $151,481 for 27 separate trips on privately chartered Lear jets and an additional $129,193 in credit card bills.

The suit also claims that McKinzie took part in a fraudulent scheme to transfer Christensen's assets to a trust created three days before his death. The trust, which names McKinzie as trustee and beneficiary, rendered Christensen insolvent, defrauded his creditors and should be dissolved, the suit claims.

U.S. District Judge Harry Hupp on Wednesday ordered McKinzie not to dispose of any assets belonging to her or to Christensen, except her Newport Beach home and furnishings, said her lawyer, Jerry Graham of Sacramento.

McKinzie, 37, is "quite ill" and will be hospitalized for at least two more weeks, Graham said. He also said he is "flat denying" the agency's allegations and other claims made previously by regulators that she was involved in any fraudulent scheme with Christensen.

"Mrs. McKinzie is a victim every bit as much as the S&L; and the others are," he said. McKinzie "had no idea" about Christensen's allegedly fraudulent activities, he said.

Two of Christensen's three children indicated in the Nevada court Tuesday that they plan to contest the will. A third child, an admitted narcotics user convicted of robbery and burglary and awaiting trial on additional robbery charges, was disinherited.

Christensen, 56, was killed in a single-car crash about 9 1/2 hours before his institution was seized by regulators. He died instantly when his 1985 Jaguar ran off the Corona del Mar Freeway at 75 m.p.h. and slammed into a bridge piling in the middle of a wide median. There were no skid marks, the CHP has said.

The circumstances surrounding his death have thrown some doubt on whether it was an accident or a suicide, according to the CHP.

"We have no evidence to say it's a suicide, but we haven't been able to determine why he left the roadway," CHP Officer Paul Cardwell said.

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