The second-largest U.S. bank filed its civil lawsuit on Monday against former vice president Hernan Arbizu, 17 months after his July 2008 arrest in Buenos Aires.
U.S. prosecutors charged Arbizu in a 15-count indictment unsealed that month with embezzling $5.4 million from customers at JPMorgan and a prior employer, UBS AG .
In its complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, JPMorgan accused Arbizu of arranging for funds to be wired to a customer account at UBS from which he had also stolen funds.
Arbizu committed this theft by lying to JPMorgan employees, falsifying documents, and forging the JPMorgan customer's signature on wire transfer authorizations, in order to mislead JPMorgan to believe that the JPMorgan customer had directed these transfers, the complaint said.
JPMorgan said Arbizu served wealthy clients in Argentina and Chile before fleeing to Argentina in the spring of 2008. It said it fired Arbizu on May 30 of that year, and has reimbursed its customer.
Reached by e-mail, Arbizu said he had no idea about the lawsuit and would consult with his lawyer. He also said he is trying to settle a related probe by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a U.S. brokerage regulator.
Counsel for Arbizu could not immediately be reached for comment. UBS spokesman Kris Kagel declined to comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York had no immediate comment. A FINRA lawyer handling Arbizu's case did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Arbizu is in his early 40s, and face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the criminal charges, which include wire fraud, bank fraud, embezzlement and identity theft. He remains in Argentina pending extradition, JPMorgan said.
The civil case is JPMorgan Chase Bank NA v. Arbizu, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-10496. The criminal case in the same court is U.S. v. Arbizu, No. 08-cr-615.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Juan Lagorio in New York and Fiona Ortiz in Buenos Aires; editing by Gunna Dickson and Robert MacMillan)