William J. Crawford said Friday that he will retire as commissioner of the California Department of Savings and Loan at the end of April, when he turns 70 years old.
Though he hasn't handed in his formal resignation yet, he said he has long intended to leave at that time and will recommend to Gov. George Deukmejian that the agency's reins be turned over to his chief deputy, William D. Davis.
He also told his superiors in the Deukmejian Administration that he plans to leave on April 30.
"If somebody said they wanted me to stay, I might change my mind," Crawford said.
"But my wife has been waiting five years for me to travel with her, and I don't want her to go alone."
Crawford, who has operated two S&Ls; and sold them, has been the state's top thrift regulator for five years. The blunt-talking Newport Beach resident became an increasingly tough regulator as he found abuses running rampant at several thrifts.
For a while, he was moving ahead of federal regulators in enforcing regulations against S&Ls;, even though he had a small staff and limited resources.
Before federal regulators had acted, for instance, his department imposed a series of orders against Ramona Savings & Loan, a defunct thrift in Orange, after its owner, John L. Molinaro, took a $2-million dividend in May, 1986.
Molinaro and one-time Ramona co-owner Donald C. Mangano were sent to prison Wednesday for 12 years and 15 years, respectively, for their convictions on fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with the collapse of Ramona.
The sentences are believed to be the stiffest that have ever been handed out in California for insider fraud violations.
The state agency also acted before federal regulators in seizing North America Savings & Loan in Santa Ana, an institution that Davis called the worst case of insider fraud in state thrift history. Crawford turned it over to federal regulators a week later after determining that it had become insolvent.
Janet Faye McKinzie, an aide to North America's owner, and others are defending themselves in a federal criminal trial in Santa Ana. The owner, Duayne D. Christensen, died in a car crash hours before the state agency took over the S&L; in January, 1987.
Crawford's luck ran out in the summer of 1987 when he seized Universal Savings & Loan in Orange, claiming that it was about to send $10 million in loans improperly to the chairman of its parent firm in Australia.
At the time, the takeover was unprecedented because Universal was a healthy S&L.; The Australian firm fought back and, within a month, won an unprecedented decision reversing the state's action and returning control of the S&L; to its owner.