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Ex-Citigroup VP Gets 8 Years for Stealing $22 Million

A former Citigroup vice president who embezzled more than $22 million was sentenced on Friday to 8 years in prison.

NEW YORK - A former Citigroup Inc vice president who admitted to embezzling more than $22 million was sentenced on Friday to 8 years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

Gary Foster, 35, pleaded guilty in September to siphoning the money from his employer between 2003 and 2010, transferring the funds to Citigroup's cash account before wiring it into his own personal account at a different bank.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano in Brooklyn federal court to 97 months on the bank fraud charge.

"While obviously we anticipated this would be a serious sentence, since it was a serious crime, we're grateful that the judge took other matters into account," including a public statement read in court Friday accepting responsibility and apologizing for the theft, said Isabelle Kirshner, a lawyer for Foster.

A spokesman for Citigroup declined comment.

Federal prosecutors said Foster "steadily and repeatedly enriched himself for many years at his employer's expense," according to a pre-sentencing court filing.

Foster was able to evade detection for years by making false accounting entries that made it seem like the wire transfers were in support of existing Citigroup contracts, when they were actually being transferred to his account, according to the complaint. He used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, purchasing luxury automobiles including a Ferrari and Maserati, and properties in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey, prosecutors said.

The fraud was uncovered during an internal audit of Citigroup's treasury department. Citigroup immediately informed the authorities and cooperated with the federal investigation, according to an affidavit from Thomas D'Amico, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government said it had seized cars and property from Foster worth approximately $14 million, which he forfeited pursuant to a plea agreement.

Foster, who worked for Citigroup for 10 years, was a vice-president in the treasury finance department when he left the company in January 2011. He was arrested in July at John F. Kennedy Airport.

He voluntarily returned to the United States from a trip to Bangkok after his family told him there was a warrant for his arrest, his lawyers said.

The case is U.S. v. Foster, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 11-601.

For the U.S.: Michael Yaeger and Karen Hennigan.

For Foster: Isabelle Kirshner of Clayman & Rosenberg.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Copyright 2010 by Reuters. All rights reserved.

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