Two entry-level employees of an Arkansas thrift who had been charged with embezzling $633 have been banned from the industry for life, according to an Office of Thrift Supervision ruling recently made public.

The former teller and former back-office worker agreed to a prohibition order in which they neither admitted nor denied charges they embezzled from their thrift, Superior Federal Bank of Fort Smith.

It's "ridiculous for somebody to do that," said Bruce McNeill, Superior Federal's chief executive. "But you never know anymore."

The charges arose from a routine internal audit, he said.

The lifetime bans in the Arkansas case, made public only recently, were imposed the same week in February that the OTS closed negotiations with a much better known banking figure, Thomas Spiegel. He had been the chief executive of a Beverly Hills, Calif., thrift whose failure cost taxpayers $1.1 billion.

Though Mr. Spiegel was fined $200,000, his cease-and-desist order requires only that he comply with the law if he ever reenters banking.

"The difference is that he strenuously contested all the charges brought against him and was successful in trial," said Richard C. Stearns, deputy chief counsel at the OTS, in explaining Mr. Spiegel's lighter penalty.

In December Mr. Spiegel was found not guilty of looting $4.5 billion- asset Columbia Savings and Loan for his own benefit. The company failed in 1991.

Though the amount involved in the Arkansas case was small, banning the two employees from the industry prevents them from being hired by other institutions where they might commit similar acts, Mr. Stearns said.

The two individuals are Patrice L. Dean, who allegedly embezzled $200, and Rhonda F. Ladd, who was charged with taking $433.

Prohibition orders are the most serious type of enforcement actions the regulator imposes. The other types are cease-and-desist orders and orders for "prompt corrective action."

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