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An Oil Trader On A Slippery Slope

Employees at Arochem International Inc. couldn't have asked for a better boss than Roy William Harris. For two years running, the 38-year-old former oil trader sprang for a lavish Christmas dinner at a fancy Connecticut inn. In 1990, Harris handed out door prizes including a weekend in Puerto Rico for two and a helicopter trip to Atlantic City. Last December, the prizes included a catered dinner for four at home. But on Christmas Eve, Arochem's employees were shocked to learn that the board had suspended Harris and another Arochem officer and got the local police to bar them from the building.

That was only the beginning. In May, the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York charged Harris, known to friends as "Will," with one of the country's largest bank frauds. Prosecutors claim Harris and others from his now-defunct Stamford (Conn.) company defrauded a consortium of five banks led by Chase Manhattan Bank of more than $ 150 million. The alleged scheme included making up collateral and diverting assets to dummy corporations. Already, Arochem's chief financial officer, Vincent J. Dispenza, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Harris and two others to "mislead the banks so that they would maintain, or even increase, their credit."