Astonishing Case Of Bank Fraud Alleged In New York; Charles J. Antonucci Sr. Charged With Bilking Pastors, TARP Program — And The Bank He Led

Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Office George Venizelos announces the arrest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the moment, I don’t have the time to do this story justice. The allegations, however, are astonishing. And law-enforcement officials at both the state and federal level  are calling it another case that has been solved by the Interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

A New York man has been arrested on charges he tried to prop up a failing bank while fleecing two Florida church pastors and attempting to defraud the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) operated by the government — all while stealing from the bank itself.

The charges against Charles J. Antonucci Sr. read like a work of fiction, painting him as a man who engaged in one deception after another, received first-class transportation on a private plane by approving millions of dollars in overdrafts by a co-conspirator, pocketed money that did not belong to him  and hatched a complex scheme to fleece taxpayers.

Investigators said all of these things occurred:

  • The Park Avenue Bank in New York was failing.
  • It was seized by the FDIC and New York banking regulators Friday.
  • Prior to the seizure, Antonucci, who served as the bank’s president and chief executive officer from June 2004 to October 2009 and also was a member of the board of directors, engaged in “self-dealing, bank bribery and embezzlement.”
  • Antonucci and a co-conspirator participated in an investment scheme that fleeced the pastors of  Calvary Springs Chapel in Coral Springs, Fla. out of $103,940 by making them believe they could earn back the principal and a profit of about $500,000 in weeks by investing in a bond. The pastors, who were investing the funds to build a new church, deposited the money into an account in the name of “Park Avenue Insurance.” The account proved to be owned by Antonucci, who split the proceeds with his co-conspirator and did not pay the interest promised the church.
  • Antonucci was at the center of a fraud in which he caused the bank to lend a company he owned $400,000 by installing a puppet president to hide his ownership of the firm, which was called “Easy Wealth Group Ltd.” The puppet president applied to the bank for a $300,000 line of credit, and Antonucci personally approved it, later increasing it to $400,000. The puppet president drew down the entire line, causing the bank a loss of the entire sum.
  • Antonucci approved overdrafts totaling more than $8 million tied to an entity of a co-conspirator. (The FBI cryptically referred to this co-conspirator as “CC-1,” an associate of Antonucci’s and part of the “Oxygen-related entities.”) In 2008 and 2009, Antonucci flew on the co-conspirator’s private plane more than 10 times, including trips to Florida, Panama, Arizona (to attend the Super Bowl), and Augusta, Ga. (to attend the Masters golf tournament). When a check from one of the “Oxygen” entities bounced in 2009 — apparently because Antonucci did not intervene — Antonucci was told he no longer could fly on the private plane.
  • Antonucci caused Park Avenue Bank to lease and pay expenses and upkeep on three properties he personally owned. Each of the properties was in Fishkill, N.Y. The bank had no legitimate need for two of the properties.
  • Antonucci tried to calm depositors’ concerns about the bank by saying he personally had pumped in $6.5 million. The money he invested, however, came from a series of loans the bank had made to businesses that had relationships with Antonucci. Those businesses then routed the money to Antonucci, who re-deposited the money back into the bank.
  • Antonucci lied to the FDIC about the source of the $6.5 million.
  • Antonucci tried to get $11 million in TARP funds, based on his purported, personal capital infusion of $6.5 million. He issued a false press release about the purported infusion, saying the bank was “well-positioned.”
  • The FDIC declined the bank’s TARP application. Antonucci then lied, saying he had withdrawn the application because of “issues” with TARP and because he did not want to create the “market impression” the bank was weak because it had accepted TARP funds.
  • To conceal the $6.5 million fraud, Antonucci created a bogus certificate of deposit in the amount of $2.3 million and engaged in an elaborate deception involving at least two companies to conceal the fraud.

Read the FBI news release.

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6 Responses to “Astonishing Case Of Bank Fraud Alleged In New York; Charles J. Antonucci Sr. Charged With Bilking Pastors, TARP Program — And The Bank He Led”

  1. Patrick, I think you did just fine..

  2. Curious about the co-conspirators. Why weren’t they named in the indictment?

  3. Holy cow.

  4. Pretty much sounds like Wall Street, housing and the derivatives industries over the past few years in a nutshell….

  5. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. dirty_bird: Pretty much sounds like Wall Street, housing and the derivatives industries over the past few years in a nutshell

    I agree with the sentiment, but reading some of what Lehman Brothers were up to (“creative”/dodgy accounting – Repo 105), it is a different shade of grey.

    On the subject of dodgy CEOs:
    Convicted embezzler given Mich. tax break arrested

    Until his arrest Wednesday, Short had been on parole because he had not repaid $96,000 in restitution from his earlier fraud convictions, Marlan said. The Corrections Department is investigating if Short may have violated his parole by not telling his parole officer he was working.