It was a matter of time before we had our first arrest for fraud in the U.S. government's TARP program, and it was a sure thing that the fraud would have a South Florida angle. But besides the feds, it appears a bank executive plucked an unlikely victim out of this region: the feel-good folks at Calvary Chapel in Coral Springs.
The complaint, which you can read here, describes two victims, one of whom appears to be Calvary Chapel Pastor Gus Flores, though he isn't named in the complaint. (Juice left a message for Flores, but we haven't heard back.)
Around this time last year, Flores and the chapel's associate pastor were trying to finance the building of a new chapel. In their effort to secure financing for the project, they met with an associate of Antonucci's referred to only as "CC-4" in the complaint.
CC-4 held himself out as an attorney whose license was "on hold" due to a conflict about his working for Antonucci's Park Avenue Bank. In fact, prosecutors allege that CC-4 wasn't working for the bank at all but for Antonucci.
This rather shady attorney told the pastors that they weren't eligible for a "conventional" loan but that the bank would be happy to arrange an unconventional one. CC-4 proposed a "short-term bond deal" whereby the church would make a $103,940 payment, "then CC-4 would borrow up to four times the value of the bond in foreign markets and pay the victims back the maturity value of the bond, in the amount of $604,848 in two to three weeks."
In July 2009, the pastors wired the money to the account of what CC-4 said was a subsidiary of the bank. Naturally, this too was bunk.
Later that month, after the Calvary Chapel pastors' huge investment returns didn't materialize, they got hold of CC-4. On July 28, he apologized for the delay and told the pastors that for their trouble, he'd make sure that they'd receive the money by August 5 -- and that it would be $800,000.
Of course, CC-4 missed that deadline too. Then he disappeared. The complaint says that the pastors called Park Avenue Bank on August 17. Antonucci allegedly took their call and said he would pass their message to CC-4. Again, nothing happened, and on August 24, the pastors demanded that Antonucci return their $103,000 payment.
It appears they didn't get a satisfactory answer, because the next month, Flores made an in-person visit to the Park Avenue Bank in Manhattan. Antonucci refused to meet him.
For more on Antonucci's case, check out this article in the New York Post. Judging by its website, Calvary Chapel is still trying to raise money for constructing a new church.