AUSTIN, TEX., AUG. 8 -- Stanley Adams, the former savings and loan owner who became a national symbol of highflying thrift operators during the Texas boom years by applying to open a branch office on the moon, was indicted today on federal criminal fraud and conspiracy charges along with three other officers and two principal customers of the now-defunct Lamar Savings Association.
After the indictments were returned here, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh termed Lamar "one of the most notorious failures in the Southwest" and said the case showed that the Bush administration "is doing its job in pursuing those in the S&L industry who abused their public trust."
Adams, 56, a financier of outspoken opinions, said he was being "used as a political scapegoat."
Real blame for the thrift tragedy, he said, belongs "at the doorstep of the Reagan administration. Those persons responsible include Ronald Reagan and George Bush and the members of the U.S. Congress who deregulated the savings and loan industry and encouraged the same lending practices that the government now deems illegal and improper."
Criminal investigation of Adams began nearly three years ago, soon after federal regulators pressured him to resign from Lamar. In 1988, he was named in a $100 million civil suit charging that he and his former Lamar associates conspired to divert corporate funds to private use and to deceive regulators at the Federal Home Loan Bank in Dallas by overstating the thrift's net worth ratio.
The 14-count indictment charges that Adams and former Lamar officials Milton R. Perry, Reuben Coleman and Frederick Scheibe tried to mislead federal regulators through "craft, trickery, deceit and dishonest means."
The defendants are accused of "sham" transactions, making loans and buying land for the sole purpose of trying to make the thrift look healthier than it was, so federal thrift officials would not take stronger regulatory action during the mid-1980s. Two major customers involved in those transactions, real estate investors Louis G. Reese III and Robert Hayden Brown, also were indicted.
The criminal and civil cases are expected to go to trial in December. One former Lamar executive, Merrick Leler, pleaded guilty last November to bank fraud and is cooperating with federal prosecutors. Another major Lamar customer, Vijay Parekh, was convicted last March on bank-fraud charges and was sentenced to five years' probation and a $100,000 fine. Adams could receive as many as 70 years in prison and fines of $3.5 million.
The rise and fall of Lamar Savings under Adams's stewardship represented a classic case of Texas-sized ambition eventually getting the best of an institution.
During his heyday in the early 1980s, Adams not only sought to open a branch office at Cayley's Crater on the moon but also had dreams of building a 62-story world trade center in Canton, China. He and his associates at Lamar used thrift funds to supply themselves with luxurious gifts, trips to California, Europe and the Far East and 80 expensive automobiles. By 1987, the thrift was more than $250 million in the red.
Adams held to the philosophy common among thrift operators during that period that his institution could survive only by rapid and massive growth.
He has contended that federal officials made it possible for thrifts to grow by easing regulations and supervision. Then, when taxpayers were left with a massive bailout of the industry, he said, officials who had been encouraging the go-go atmosphere turned on its practitioners and tried to jail them.
"These indictments against me are part of what has become a political issue and little more," Adams said. "The Democrats want to blame the Republicans, and the Republicans want to blame the Democrats. And I, and other honest businessmen like me, have been caught in the middle."