Doral-based U.S. Century Bank has more outstanding insider loans than any other banking institution in Florida

When it comes to insider dealing, no one does it better than the board of directors at Doral-based U.S. Century Bank. Last month, the International Union of Operating Engineers, a labor union representing construction workers, completed a study that concluded U.S. Century had more outstanding insider loans than any other banking institution in Florida.

Though the bank has deposits of only $1.5 billion, it has doled out more than $110 million in insider loans, says the union's Jeffrey Fiedler, director of special projects and initiatives.

By contrast, SunTrust, which has nearly ten times the deposits, with $124 billion, lent insiders only $98.3 million, Fiedler says.


U.S. Century Bank

According to the Miami-Dade County Clerk's website, U.S. Century has loaned four of its directors $7.8 million since 2008. But with one of its directors in financial trouble, the bank might want to put the brakes on the insider deals. Last month, the bank reported a $14.1 million loss — the first time it has ever been in the red. And that was after receiving $50 million in federal bailout money earlier this year. Bank vice chairman, president, and CEO Octavio Hernandez blamed the loss on the downturn in the South Florida real estate market.

U.S. Century was incorporated in 2002 by a group of prominent Miami businessmen, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission chairman Rodney Barreto (who paid back a $1.8 million insider loan in 2006); members of the Herran family, which owns the Sedano's supermarket chain; Spanish media executive José Cancela; and homebuilder Sergio Pino, who secured a $500,000 home loan from U.S. Century this past July 30.

Pino received the loan even though his company, Century Homebuilders, has had to get loan extensions for many of his firm's residential projects. Last month, Coral Gables-based Mercantil Commercebank filed a $4.4 million foreclosure lawsuit against Century Lancaster Plaza LLC, Pino, and Juan Carlos Menendez, according to Miami-Dade County Circuit Court records. It targets a 0.8-acre site at 250 Minorca Ave., which sits just west of Ponce de Leon Boulevard in the Gables.

U.S. Century also has loans out to directors Agustin Herran (for $780,000) and Armando Guerra ($6.5 million).

The bank's chief credit officer, William Garzozi, says U.S. Century adheres to strict federal banking rules. Directors, he says, are offered the same rates and terms as regular banking customers. “And there is a limit as to how much you can lend,” Garzozi says. “We are nowhere near our limit.” Asked if any of the insider loans are behind or in trouble, Garzozi replies, “No, not at all.”

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