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Ex-Manhattan banker accused of stealing TARP money

The former president of a small Manhattan community bank Monday became the first person accused of trying to defraud the federal bailout program.

Prosecutors also contend that Charles Antonucci Sr. stole so he could live a lavish lifestyle. He was arrested Monday at his home in Fishkill.

Antonucci, 59, was charged with self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement and fraud. The criminal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He could face up to 260 years in prison.

Authorities said the rip-off targeted the New York State Banking Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Antonucci resigned last year as president of The Park Avenue Bank in Manhattan. The bank was taken over by the FDIC on Friday and reopened Saturday as a new institution with its half billion dollars in assets protected, authorities said.

Among other allegations, Antonucci was accused of using false information to request $11.3 million from the federal government's TARP bank bailout program.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the arrest represented "decisive action against fraud and deceit in the banking industry." He said Antonucci "put his personal greed ahead of his professional duties" after his bank ran into financial troubles in 2008.

Bharara said Antonucci lied to banking authorities in late 2008 and early 2009 to make them believe he had invested $6.5 million of his own money in the bank when the money actually belonged to the bank and had merely been moved around to make it seem as if it came from Antonucci.

The prosecutor said it was the "functional equivalent of Monopoly money" and was meant to convince federal authorities he should qualify for TARP money.

Antonucci's lawyer, Charles Stillman, said he planned to study the complaint "and consider an appropriate response to the charges." He said Antonucci, who was freed on $2 million bail after his court appearance Monday, would plead not guilty at a future court appearance.

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