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Feds arrest their first bank bailout fraud suspect

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal authorities on Monday charged the former chief executive of a New York bank with being the first suspect to try and rip off taxpayer funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District in Manhattan said it arrested Charles Antonucci, former CEO of The Park Avenue Bank, with self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement of bank funds and fraud, among other charges.

Antonucci is accused of trying to defraud the TARP program of more than $11 million in taxpayer money, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Also, during his time as bank executive, Antonucci allegedly authorized credit extensions and overdrafts to "customers with whom he had financial relationships," in one case extending credit "in exchange for the use of the customer's private plane," according to documents from the U.S. Attorney's office.

In addition, he used the bank to defraud Florida pastors out of more than $100,000 that had been earmarked to build a new church, prosecutors said.

Antonucci was arrested Monday at his home in Fishkill, N.Y. and is expected to appear in court Monday. Prosecutors say he used a company he owned called Easy Wealth Group to mask some of the fraudulent transactions.

Regulators seized The Park Avenue Bank over the weekend.

Antonucci's attorney, Charles Stillman, told CNNMoney.com: "We just learned of these charges today, are studying them and therefore have no comment." To top of page

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