Ex-Bank President Charged in TARP Rip-Off

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Friday, Mar 19, 2010  |  Updated 8:43 PM EDT
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Ex-Bank President Charged in TARP Rip-Off

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The former CEO of the Park Avenue Bank was arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Monday in connection with an attempted $11 million rip-off of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Charles Antonucci Sr. is charged with embezzelment, fraud bribery and other counts in connection with his alleged scheme to lie and rip-off investors and the government in his role as head of The Park Avenue Bank.

He is the first person ever to be charged with trying to defraud TARP.

Investigators said Antonucci even defrauded a Florida church - the Calvary Springs Chapel in Coral Springs -- out of $100,000 by promising outsized returns.  Instead, officials said Antonucci and others just pocketed the cash.

The FDIC and New York State bank regulators moved in late Friday to shut down the troubled bank. Branches were sold to Valley National Bank and officials said all $500 million in deposits are safe.

Federal prosecutors said Antonucci lied when he claimed he would put $6.5 million of his own money into the bank to help stabilize its books.  But instead, investigators said in a complex scheme, Antonucci loaned himself the $6.5 million from the bank's funds and redoposited them. 

"Charles Antonucci allegedly put his personal greed over ahead of his professional duty," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.  "Lying to financial regulators is the equivalent to obstruction of justice." 

Prosecutors said Antonucci tried to steal millions in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle which included flying on private jets to attend events like the Super Bowl and major PGA golf tournaments.

Antonucci, 59, was arrested at his home in Fishkill.  ICE investigators were involved because there was an overseas Honduras connection to the alleged fraud.  FBI agents and officials with the TARP Inspector General's office.

 Prosecutors claimed they were investigating numerous other Wall Street rip-offs related to TARP but declined to detail what firms are under investigation.

Antonucci was set to be arraigned on the charges Monday afternoon in federal court in Manhattan.

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