Owners of a failed Miami thrift apparently fled the country last week, leaving behind $2 million in art and furniture stuffed in a tractor trailer, federal and state regulators said.
Pedro R. Lopez and his wife, Teresa Saldise, ran the failed General Bank and an affiliated insurance company. They vanished separately about a week ago.
Local police arrested Ms. Saldise after the Office of Thrift Supervision learned that movers were parked in front of the couple's mansion, stuffing a tractor-trailer with valuable Oriental rugs, more than 100 paintings and metal sculptures, and 18th and 19th century furniture.
Investigation in Progress
"There are persistent rumors that they are in Barcelona," Spain, said Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Insurance.
No criminal charges have been filed against the couple, who are Cuban immigrants in their 40s and well-known attorneys. But an investigation by the state is under way.
The couple faces $28 million in civil money penalties from the OTS for allegedly assuming secret control of General Bank in 1982 and for allegedly causing its 1989 failure.
Mr. Lopez was chairman and president of the $356 million-asset thrift and Ms. Saldise was a director. Ms. Saldise was also president of First Miami Insurance, which provided high-risk automobile policies. First Miami failed last week and is being liquidated by the State of Florida.
The story of Ms. Saldise and Mr. Lopez began to percolate two weeks ago when an OTS lawyer working on the case received a tip alerting her to a 40-foot tractor-trailer parked in front of the couple's Miami Beach mansion.
Records showed that the trailer was to be loaded on a freighter bound for Barcelona, said Beth N. Mizuno, senior enforcement attorney with the OTS who received the tip and blew the whistle.
Metro Dade police blocked the truck when it tried to leave the couple's property and arrested Ms. Saldise. A Tallahassee judge ordered her to spend the night in the Dade County jail-house, out of fear that she might flee the country. The whereabouts of her husband were already unknown.
The next day, Ms. Saldise was released after her lawyer argued that the state had no legal grounds for incarcerating her. She later disappeared.
As chairman of General Bank, Mr. Lopez personally selected the art, including a Matta for $132,000 and a painting by Joaquin Torres Garcia for $60,000, the OTS alleges.