If you're Charles H. Keating II, you're probably tired of running into process server Paul D. Sanchez. No matter that you're used to process servers. Even before your junk-bond-fueled empire was seized by the federal government, someone was always serving you papers. That's the price you pay for being a wheeler-dealer.

Apparently, though, it's getting tougher and tougher for Keating to play the game.

Last Thursday afternoon at his ex-resort, the Phoenician, Keating had just finished getting a haircut when Sanchez tried to give him yet another subpoena. According to an affidavit filed by Sanchez, Keating exploded, shouting at him, "Do you enjoy being a prick? You are a prick!"

Pretty strong language from the moral crusader who founded the national anti-obscenity group Citizens for Decency Through Law?

Keating could not be reached for comment. But as Sanchez says, "For a well-educated, well-bred man, that's the best he could come up with?"

Not exactly. It seems that Keating also played a game of cat-and-mouse with Sanchez in the parking lot.

Sanchez tells the story this way in his affidavit: At about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sanchez walked up to Keating outside the barber shop. (He says he waited outside the shop to spare Keating any public embarrassment.) He told Keating about the subpoena and asked him to step outside rather than be served in front of the Phoenician's employees.

Keating refused to go outside, so Sanchez went back in and told Keating he was being served. Keating refused, so Sanchez said "in a loud tone of voice" so that witnesses would hear him, "Mr. Keating, I am an officer of the court. I am serving you with a subpoena. You are served."

Keating refused to take the piece of paper, so Sanchez left it on Keating's feet (a common practice known as "drop service"), turned and walked away. As Sanchez went into the parking lot, so did Keating. That's when Keating called him "a prick." As Sanchez attempted to pull out of his parking space, Keating stymied him by backing out his vehicle--no, not a Mercedes; a Ford F-150 that Sanchez describes as "not much of a truck." ("My opinion was he wanted to block me in," says Sanchez.) The process server backed onto the resort's golf course to get out of the jam, and Keating drove away very slowly. Once Sanchez saw Keating clear the guard shack at the end of the resort's driveway, he went back inside and asked Phoenician staffers if Keating had picked up the subpoena. (He had, according to at least one employee.)

The subpoena was for Keating to testify in Nelson v. Phoenix Resort Corporation, a Superior Court civil suit brought by an ex-employee of the Phoenician who was ousted by federal regulators when the government seized the resort in 1989.

The 29-year-old Sanchez, who's also a private investigator, knows how to find Charlie Keating. He says he's served papers to Keating "more times than I can count."

In the old days, Sanchez says, the process was a polite one. He would call the Keatings or leave them his card to tell them he was coming, they would meet him, and that was that. All that changed, however, when Keating's American Continental Corporation went into bankruptcy in the spring of 1989.

As a result, Sanchez has had to figure out such logistical problems as how long it takes for the electric gate at Keating's compound in Paradise Valley to close. (Answer: 15 seconds.) Once, on a matter involving Charles III (Keating's son, known as "C3"), Sanchez tracked him down to a guest house in PV. And, Sanchez has had to serve Charles II indirectly by giving papers to Keating's wife, Mary Elaine.

"Mrs. Keating, I'm sure, is a very nice lady," says Sanchez. "She's had to go through some times with those two guys. I didn't want to have to serve her."--

"Mr. Keating, I am an officer of the court. I am serving you with a subpoena. You are served.

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy