Bank That Says Swindle Cost It $15M Hires CEO

An Ohio banking company that claims it was swindled out of $15 million has hired a successor to the chief executive officer who quit shortly after the announcement was made.Wilbur R. Roat started Dec. 15 as president and CEO of Belmont Bancorp in St. Clairsville and its $376 million-asset Belmont National Bank. Mr. Roat was president and CEO of $104 million-asset First Lehigh Bank of Allentown, Pa., which Patriot Bank of Pottstown, Pa., bought last January.

His predecessor at Belmont, J. Vincent Ciroli Jr., quit soon after the June announcement that the $15 million was missing. Robert Brown, Belmont's vice president of marketing and product development, said a top priority for Mr. Roat will be working to recover the money.

Belmont claims in a pending lawsuit that former executive vice president William Wallace and home builder Steven D. Schwartz of Schwartz Homes Inc. in New Philadelphia, Ohio, stole the money through a bogus loan program. Attorneys on both sides are in the midst of filing depositions, but no trial date has yet been set, Mr. Brown said.

Since Mr. Ciroli's resignation, the company has outsourced its primary management duties to Denver-based Ficap Strategic Partners LLC, Mr. Brown said. Ficap will stay involved with the company for several months, but its role will be reduced.

- Craig Woker

Shareholder Suggests Ohio Thrift Sell Itself

One of Lenox Bancorp's largest shareholders is urging the Ohio thrift company to hire an investment bank and consider selling itself.In a document filed Dec. 14 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, John C. Lame of Cincinnati urged $71.5 million-asset Lenox, of St. Bernard, to explore all its alternatives to enhance shareholder value.

Mr. Lame, who owns 7.7% of Lenox's stock - worth just more than $309,000 - said the company also should consider selling one of its two branches, hiring new management, adding board members, and selling thrift-held securities.

The company lost $53,000 in the first nine months of this year, compared with earning $162,000 during the same period a year earlier.

Lenox executives did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

- Craig Woker

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