The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took a page from its 1980s playbook last week by suing two top officials of a failed Colorado bank.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Colorado, the FDIC is seeking to recover three times its losses, or at least $84 million.

The suit accuses Edward P. Mattar 3d, the former owner and chief executive officer of BestBank, Boulder, and former president Thomas Alan Boyd of fraud, racketeering, and breach of fiduciary duty, among other charges.

The FDIC also sued a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm, Century Financial Group, and its two top shareholders, Douglas R. Baetz and Glenn M. Gallant. The suit accuses Century Financial of misleading bank regulators about the value of a subprime credit card portfolio it operated with BestBank, and of engaging in a broad conspiracy with Mr. Mattar and Mr. Boyd.

The FDIC also filed a motion seeking to freeze the personal and corporate assets of all the defendants in the case.

In perhaps its most dramatic allegation, the lawsuit alleged that Mr. Mattar and Mr. Boyd paid themselves performance bonuses totaling $9.5 million in early 1998 "despite the fact that the bank was on the verge of failing." At least some of the payments were made to Mr. Mattar's consulting company, Effective Management Systems of Nevada.

BestBank was closed July 23 after Colorado regulators concluded that its $23 million in capital and reserves could not support losses of at least $134 million. It is one of just three banks to fail so far this year-quite a contrast to the 1980s when more than 1,000 banks failed.

The closure of BestBank is expected to cost the Bank Insurance Fund at least $28 million, the FDIC said. That estimate could rise significantly, however, because it was calculated before the FDIC knew how poorly BestBank's credit card portfolio was performing. The agency has yet to issue a revised loss estimate.

According to the FDIC, more than half of the 500,000 credit cards in the portfolio were nonperforming at the time BestBank was shut down.

BestBank, founded in 1988 by Mr. Mattar, underwent an exponential increase in assets after it began selling certificates of deposit and issuing credit cards over the Internet. From April 1, 1997, to March 31, 1998, it tripled its assets, to $314 million.

BestBank and the FDIC have clashed in court before. In 1996, the FDIC obtained a restraining order on Mr. Mattar, who allegedly was making it difficult for the agency to conduct an examination.

The FDIC is not authorized to file criminal charges. Those would have to be brought by the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's office in Colorado, or the state, which did not return calls Friday.

Mr. Mattar, Mr. Baetz, and Mr. Gallant also did not return phone calls. Mr. Boyd could not be reached.

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