The Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known by the TARP acronym that recalls the frantic and frightening days of the 2008 financial crisis, has disbursed $423.4 billion to banks, auto manufacturers, securities dealers, and even some homeowners involved in the Obama administration’s loan-modification effort. Along the way, nearly $5 billion in TARP and other government assistance has been lost or pilfered in connection with criminal cases, and now the U.S. Treasury is trying to get it back.
Christy Romero, TARP’s inspector general, has a broad portfolio, working with federal and state prosecutors to secure recovery judgments and take back misspent funds even in cases where banks applied for TARP money but didn’t receive it. So far investigators have seized dozens of bank accounts and properties, as well as bags of silver, a tractor, bundles of cash, Civil War memorabilia, artwork, and at least one boat.
“Crime in banks, particularly by insiders at banks that applied for or received TARP, erodes the American public’s confidence in the banking system, making the banking system another victim of the crime,” Romero says in a new report to Congress. Here’s a look at some of the loot seized by Treasury’s TARP cops:
This 1957 Cadillac (GM) Coupe de Ville was seized from real-estate developer Thomas E. Arney, who is currently serving 27 months in prison for his part in a $41 million scheme to hide bad loans at Bank of the Commonwealth in Norfolk, Va. The bank sought $28 million in TARP funds in November 2008, but banking regulators asked it to withdraw the application, and it did.
A 19th century English painting of a royal family was seized from Mark A. Conner, former chief executive officer of FirstCityBank in Stockbridge, Ga. Conner is currently serving 12 years in prison for defrauding FirstCity to win the approval of mortgages for properties owned by him or his partners. The painting is worth about $6,000. FirstCity unsuccessfully sought $6.1 million in TARP funds in February 2009 before it failed and was seized by federal and state authorities the next month.
The Florida apartment building where Darryl Layne Woods, former chairman and president of Calvert Financial, used part of his $1 million in pocketed TARP money to buy a luxury condo for himself. Woods was sentenced in March to eight months in a halfway house and four months of home detention for lying about his use of TARP funds. Calvvert Financial received $1,037,000 through the TARP Capital Purchase Program.
Stacks of cash totaling $158,000 seized from a safe belonging to George P. Hranowskyj, who was sentenced to 14 years in jail and ordered—along with his business partner, Eric Menden—to pay $32.8 million in restitution and forfeit a further $43.5 million. Again, this was tied to fraud at the Bank of the Commonwealth.
A Kubota (6326:JP) tractor also seized from George P. Hranowskyj. Probably worth less than the pile of cash.
A 1958 Mercedes-Benz (DAI:GR) Cabriolet 22 seized from Lee Bentley Farkas, former chairman of failed lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage. Farkas was sentenced to 30 years in prison on 14 counts of conspiracy, and bank, securities, and wire fraud for his role in the $2.9 billion scheme to defraud Colonial Bank, Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac among others. The inspector general’s office stopped Treasury from disbursing $553 million in TARP funds that had been approved for Colonial Bank, where two executives pleaded guilty to participating in the fraud scheme. Estimated value: $185,000.