Banker linked to 1980s S&L scandal dies after jumping off Tampa International Airport garage

TAMPA — One of the leading figures of the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s jumped to his death from a parking garage at Tampa International Airport last week.

Michael Wise, 64, leaped from the ninth floor of the garage in the early afternoon of April 8. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death an apparent suicide. It's unclear why Wise jumped.

Wise came to St. Petersburg earlier this decade to get a fresh start in the mortgage business.

Wise was a former Kansas clothing salesman who became best known as the chairman of Silverado Banking in Denver, where Neil Bush (brother of former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) was one of the directors and former Tampa Palms developer Kenneth Good was a major borrower. The institution's collapse in 1988 cost taxpayers $1 billion.

As a result, Wise was barred from the banking industry for life even though he was acquitted of charges that he used a $500,000 Silverado loan for personal expenses.

He moved on to Aspen, where he was accused of stealing $8.7 million from investors in a mortgage business, Cornerstone Private Capital. He pleaded guilty in 1999 and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.

After being released, Wise went to work for Nations Holding Co., a Kansas company that owns CFIC Home Mortgage.

The St. Petersburg-headquartered mortgage company where Wise landed lost its right to do business in Georgia and was investigated in Florida. One of its problems: employment of felons, which some states don't allow.

He declined to discuss what he was doing at CFIC or how he ended up in St. Petersburg.

"I have nothing to say," Wise told the Times in 2007. "I have no reason to talk with you."

Georgia regulators revoked the company's license in March, without public explanation.

The company paid a $193,000 fine. The company confirmed the problem was employment of felons, which broke Georgia law.

Its response was to fire employees with felony records who worked in some other states.

The medical examiner released the body to A Life Tributes funeral home in St. Petersburg.

Banker linked to 1980s S&L scandal dies after jumping off Tampa International Airport garage 04/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 10:16pm]

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