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Weekends in Jail Ordered in Attempted S&L; Swindle

Times Staff Writer

A man who came close to swindling $1 million from an Irvine savings institution was sentenced Tuesday to weekends in jail. He remained silent about who else participated in the scheme.

Raul Lenin Proano, 29, of Culver City was sentenced to 90 days in prison and four years’ probation for bank and mail fraud. Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real ordered Proano to serve the time on weekends and also ordered him to perform 2,000 hours of community service.

Proano, who pleaded guilty to the charges, sought a $1-million loan last year from Far West Savings & Loan of Irvine, to be secured by a $2.6-million Beverly Hills mansion whose owner knew nothing of the transaction.

“It was the stupidest mistake I’ve made in my life. I’m very, very sorry for it,” Proano told Real.

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Proano first posed as an interested buyer of the home, owned by Walstein C. Findlay Jr. Findlay allowed several appraisers to view the property at Proano’s request.

Proano then used those appraisals to pose as Findlay’s agent in applying for the Far West Loan. He submitted documents in which Findlay’s signature was forged, according to prosecutors.

The bank had been requested to direct all correspondence about the loan to Proano, still posing as the true owner’s agent. But one letter was sent, apparently inadvertently, to Findlay’s home. His housekeeper opened the letter and referred it to Findlay’s lawyers, who notified federal authorities.

Proano was arrested Nov. 30, 1987, when he accepted delivery of the loan check from a federal agent posing as a bank employee.

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At the hearing Monday, Proano’s lawyer, Chester Brown, again suggested that his client declined to cooperate with federal authorities investigating the fraud out of fear of unspecified reprisals against himself and his family.


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