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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

$19M bank 'robbery'

Ex-Citigroup exec Gary Foster

Former exec looted Citi funds, feds say

He robbed Citigroup blind, the feds say.

A former executive with the banking giant embezzled $19 million over 18 months, and used the loot to buy high-end real estate and luxury cars, authorities and sources said yesterday.

Gary Foster, 35, also allegedly splurged on a chauffeur for his Maserati GranTurismo and BMW 550i because he is legally blind -- and had a Ferrari on order when the FBI busted him Sunday as he was getting off a flight from Bangkok at Kennedy Airport, sources said.

"The defendant allegedly used his knowledge of bank operations to commit the ultimate inside job," said Brooklyn US Attorney Loretta Lynch, announcing bank-fraud charges against Foster, a 12-year Citigroup vet who abruptly quit in January.

Foster earned $100,000 annually as an assistant vice president in the Long Island City, Queens, offices of the bank's treasury finance department, which manages some of the institution's own investments.

But authorities alleged that beginning in May 2009, and continuing until last December, Foster wired $19.2 million from internal Citi accounts into his personal Chase bank account.

He allegedly covered up the scam by assigning phony contract or deal numbers to make the transfers appear legit, and had himself assigned as contact person if there were problems, a criminal complaint charges.

Foster allegedly dropped $12 million of the embezzled money on properties in Midtown and New Jersey, bought a Garden State house for his parents and paid off a mortgage for his ex-wife.

In December, a month before quitting, Foster dropped $3 million on a 10,000-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and $1.93 million on a Rockefeller Center apartment right across West 48th Street from a Citi branch.

Foster -- a Rutgers University grad whose LinkedIn page lists him as hedge-fund consultant -- also bought two condos worth a combined $2.5 million in a Jersey City glass-tower high-rise overlooking the Hudson River.

"I walked into the unit and was like, 'Wow. This is a really great view,' " Foster told The Bergen Record last year in an article that was accompanied by a photo of him in the 33rd-floor unit, sitting in a chair on a gaudy zebra-striped carpet.

One of Foster's homes has ceilings painted in gold leaf, while another's bathroom mirrors turn into TV screens when a button is pressed, a source said.

Foster "loved to hang out in spas, getting facials and massages" -- and stocked multiple bank accounts with loads of looted cash, the source said.

Another source said that Foster, who has two children, became a regular in the Manhattan nightclub scene. He would show up to hot spots like Greenhouse and NYC wearing eye-catching watches and dropping as much as $2,000 on bottle service.

His ex-wife, Joan Foster, told The Post that she never benefited from his allegedly ill-gotten gains.

"All I can say is he didn't show any signs of this activity when we were together," she said.

A Citi spokeswoman said, "We are outraged by the actions of this former employee. Citi informed law enforcement immediately upon discovery of the suspicious transactions, and we are cooperating fully to ensure Mr. Foster is prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Foster, who is facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted, pleaded not guilty yesterday at Brooklyn federal court and was released on $800,000 bond secured by his parents' home and other properties.

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