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— The day after he received the letter, Wick wrote to the First International board, saying he was presenting "an offer to purchase" the bank's business. After Rocky sued, the agency quoted Wick's own words in saying that it has never told De La Fuente that he could not sell his own stock -- but he can't sell the bank because he is banned from the banking business. It's "crystal clear" that the offer was a proposal to buy First International's banking business, not a proposal to buy De La Fuente's stock, said Judge Brewster, agreeing with the agency.

Meanwhile, First International is in purgatory. Early this year, the bank made arrangements to sell more than half its stock to another bank. De La Fuente's family and Wick sued the bank, claiming the First Community deal was better. That suit was settled out of court. "We paid him nothing, but the legal fees cost our shareholders a lot," says Tom King, president of First International.

Later, a proposed buyout by another bank fell through because regulators wouldn't approve the deal. King doesn't think that De La Fuente was the cause.

However, First International is out of compliance with the agency's capital requirements and needs a capital infusion, but potential suitors are turned off by De La Fuente's presence, says King. Although De La Fuente can't vote his own shares, his family has 25 percent, and it can vote. Essentially, although the entrepreneur is banned from banking, he can still block the financial rescue of First International.

De La Fuente and his lawyer in the federal case did not respond to phone calls.

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