Two former bank executives have been charged with stealing millions of taxpayer dollars by defrauding programs intended to bail out struggling banks and promoting lending among low income communities, the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s Special Inspector General announced Friday.
Zulfikar Esmail and his wife Shamin, both senior officers of the Illinois-based bail out recipient Premier Bank, had already been arrested last year for defrauding the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The two used fraudulent bank records to apply for and received $6.8 million in TARP funds, all of which were lost when the bank later failed.
Now they’ve also been charged with using their positions to steal over a million dollars from the Community Development Financial Institutions fund, a program intended to encourage lending in poor communities, in what the Inspector General is calling “the first criminal charges that we are aware of related to Treasury’s CDFI program.” (RELATED: TARP Bank Manager Traded Loans For Drugs)
The IG also alleges that the Esmails defrauded another TARP recipient, First Midwest Bancorp, after they defaulted on an $8.1 million loan taken out from the bank. First Midwest Bancorp received $193 million in TARP funds in 2008.
“As these new charges allege, the defendants fraudulently secured federal aid funds at a time when the country’s economy and its major financial institutions were on the brink of disaster,” Illinois’s Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Their illegal scheme ultimately resulted in the failure of the bank at a great cost to the bank’s customers and American taxpayers.”
According to the IG, the Esmails hid Premier Bank’s poor financial condition from state regulators for years, and that Zulfikar “engaged in a criminal shakedown scheme, soliciting and demanding bribes in connection with applications made for business loans and lines of credit.”
The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program was established as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. According to their latest quarterly report, released at the end of October, in the past two years alone 146 people have been convicted of crimes investigated by SIGTARP, 87 of whom were sentenced to prison.