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NEW YORK (AP) — A one-time small community bank president who became the first person convicted of trying to rip off the federal bailout program was sentenced on Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison by a judge who said time behind bars was necessary because his crimes were too serious for his cooperation with the government to win his freedom.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald sentenced Charles Antonucci Sr. in Manhattan, where he was president of The Park Avenue Bank before his arrest in a fraud prosecutors said included bank bribery, self-dealing, embezzlement of bank funds and a failed effort to fraudulently get more than $11 million worth of taxpayer rescue funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
The government said the 64-year-old Fishkill and Woodside resident also participated in a $37.5 million fraud that left an Oklahoma insurance company in receivership during a crime spree between 2006 and 2009.
"Even though he's cooperated, he committed enormous crimes," the judge said. "It isn't enough to say, 'I've been caught, I'll cooperate and everything will be right with the world and I'll just go home.'"
She ordered him to pay $54 million in restitution. He also must forfeit $11 million. If he had not cooperated, he would have faced at least 20 years in prison if federal sentencing guidelines were followed after his guilty plea.
Before Antonucci's sentence was announced, he apologized "for my actions and to those I've harmed."
"This is not the legacy I want to leave my children," he said.
The judge said she had not heard an excuse or explanation for his crimes.
"The only one that comes to mind is greed," she said.
Antonucci resigned in 2009 as president of the bank.
On Wednesday, the judge sentenced Matthew L. Morris, a former senior vice president of the bank who pleaded guilty and cooperated, to a year and a day in prison.
The government said Antonucci was the first defendant convicted of fraud in the federal bailout program, which was put in place to rescue financial institutions and strengthen the nation's financial system when the economy collapsed in 2008.
The federally insured bank Antonucci had led primarily catered to small businesses. At the end of 2009, it had about $500 million on deposit and more than $520 million in assets.
Prosecutors said Antonucci carried out some of his crimes through a corrupt relationship with Wilber Anthony Huff, a Kentucky-based businessman. Huff, who pleaded guilty last year, was sentenced in June to 12 years in prison.
Antonucci, during his 2010 guilty plea, admitted accepting gifts from customers, including $250,000 in cash and the use of private planes and luxury cars. In 2008 and 2009, he used a private plane more than 10 times to fly to Florida, Panama, Arizona and Georgia, including trips to the Super Bowl and the Masters Golf Tournament, the government said.
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