The former president of New York's privately held Park Avenue Bank was arrested and charged on Monday with being the first person to attempt to steal from U.S. government bailout funds in the financial crisis.
A 10-count criminal complaint accused Charles Antonucci of devising "an elaborate round-trip loan transaction" that he told others was his own $6.5 million investment in the bank, misleading state bank regulators and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The charges filed in Manhattan federal court said Charles Antonucci "made material and false statements" in the bank's application for $11.2 million from TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
"Antonucci is the first person ever to be charged with attempting to defraud the TARP and we expect he will not be the last," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference.
He declined to give further details of the continuing investigation, other than to say prosecutors and New York state bank regulators would be making a review of banks that appear to be having problems.
On Friday, state regulators closed Park Avenue Bank, which had assets of $520.1 million and deposits of $494.5 million at the end of 2009, according to the FDIC. Customer money was transferred to another bank, Valley National Bank, officials said. Valley National Bank is part of Valley National Bancorp of Wayne, N.J.
The regulators determined the bank was badly managed and "critically undercapitalized," according to a statement released on Friday by the New York State Banking Superintendent.
Antonucci was president of the bank from June 2004 to October 2009 and the alleged offenses occurred between October 2008 and February 2009, according to the court document.
Antonucci, 59, was arrested on Monday morning at his home in Fishkill, N.Y. An attorney for him could not immediately be located. Antonucci was expected to appear in court at a later time.
He faces up to 30 years in prison on some of the charges, if he is convicted.
"While the bank's TARP application was under review by the FDIC, Charles Antonucci encouraged and caused other individuals acting on behalf of the bank to encourage the FDIC to grant the bank's TARP application, in part on the basis of Antonucci's purported personal investment of $6.5 million in new capital," the court document said.
Antonucci and others "repeatedly singled out Antonucci's $6.5 million capital investment as evidence that the bank was viable and deserving of TARP funds."
Instead, the complaint said, the investment "was a sham, round-trip transaction using the bank's own funds and was designed, at least in part, to deceive regulators about the bank's capital position."
The charges include self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement and fraud on the New York state banking department, U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and TARP.
The bank in November applied for a bailout of less than $12 million under the TARP program, but withdrew its application over concerns about restrictions on banks that receive taxpayer money, bank chairman Donald Glascoff said on March 10.
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