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Paul blasts thrift regulators

Ousted CenTrust Bank chairman David Paul, whose swank personal life has come to symbolize excesses in the savings and loan crisis, is fighting a $30.8-million restitution order from thrift regulators, accusing them of "an Alice in Wonderland approach to due process." Paul, 51, faced a deadline Thursday for submitting securities to cover the claim from the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, but his attorneys were seeking to delay the deadline in court.

Paul's response doesn't answer specifics of the government complaint, which charges the head of Florida's once-largest savings and loan immersed himself in luxury ranging from $1,100-a-night New York hotel suites to flown-in European chefs, in order "to satisfy his insatiable vanity and ego."

Instead, his attorneys challenged the legality of the Oct. 22 order, saying any alleged misconduct occurred before the bailout law was passed last year.

The attorneys charge the government's demand for the $30.8-million "imposes unprecedented and oppressive conditions .


. in that it purports (without legal authority) to seize all the personal assets of

Paul and his family."

The civil proceedings are "an Alice in Wonderland approach to due process, where execution comes before the trial," Paul's attorneys charged.

They asked for a speedy hearing, and U.S. District Judge Edward Davis told attorneys at an impromptu conference Thursday afternoon that he expects to hold a hearing next week.

Paul's attorney, Sanford Bohrer, who exclaimed in the heated session "my client is getting raped," said OTS chief Timothy Ryan "is quoted as having decided the case against Mr. Paul. He's already found him guilty."

Government attorney Faith Hochberg reacted to Paul's motion by saying the court papers are "full of vitriol" and "extraneous red herrings."

Thrift regulators went after Paul amid congressional pressure to recoup some of the billions of dollars in losses associated with the S&L crisis. The federal takeover of CenTrust last February is costing taxpayers $1.8-billion.