Finazzo never took the stand, which is his right. He is presumed innocent of all charges, and it was up to U.S. government prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The maximum term of imprisonment for each count of mail and wire fraud is 20 years, and five years for the conspiracy charge. U.S. District Court Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf will determine what the penalties will be. Finazzo’s forfeiture trial starts on Monday and is expected to last a week. The government is seeking more than $21 million, two investment accounts and four pieces of property from Finazzo. Bail was continued.
Mauskopf gave her final instructions Thursday morning before sending the case to the 12-member jury panel to begin deliberations shortly before noon. Word filtered through the courthouse shortly after 4 p.m. that a verdict had already been reached on each count of the indictment.
U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said, “We have all heard the saying, ‘Money does not buy happiness,’ and today’s verdict is case in point for that maxim. Christopher Finazzo had a great job that paid him millions of dollars, but this honest living was apparently not enough to satisfy his greed. As the evidence at trial showed, he schemed to steal from Aéropostale and to receive more than $25 million in illegal kickbacks from a supplier.”
She also said, as the Finazzo verdict shows, “We will vigorously pursue corporate fraudsters who double deal to enrich themselves and bring them to justice.”
The three-week criminal trial began April 8. Prosecutors took two weeks to present their case, which included cross-examination of their witnesses by defense counsel. The defense needed just a day-and-a half to present its case.
The key components in the government’s case are that Finazzo deprived the retailer of money that could have gone elsewhere and that he interfered with Aéropostale’s ability to decide how to control their own assets, such as whether to place orders with South Bay or somewhere else.
Edward Slezak, the general counsel of Aéropostale Inc., was in court Wednesday morning, and lawyers almost fought over his right to attend closing arguments. He is the only member of the executive team who was also present at the exit interview in which Finazzo was fired. That interview was taped. The recording, which included Finazzo’s statements, was played for jurors. Both Julian Geiger, chief executive officer at the time, and Michael Cunningham, chief financial officer and president, have since retired from the teen retailer. Like Geiger and Cunningham, Slezak also was a government witness in the case. Lawyers for Finazzo objected to his presence, even though both sides had already rested. Before government prosecutors could state why he should be able to stay in the courtroom, Slezak made the decision easy, stating, “I’ll leave. I don’t want to be the subject of this.”
Finazzo and his friend and now coconspirator, Douglas Dey, were both indicted in June 2010. Dey owned South Bay, and 50 percent of the profits South Bay received from orders from Aéropostale were split between Dey and a company called C & D Retail Consultants Inc., a firm Finazzo set up. According to the government, the retailer paid more than $350 million for orders with South Bay, while Finazzo received $25 million for his share of the profits.
Dey in September pled guilty to a conspiracy charge, which carries a penalty of five years imprisonment and the forfeiture of $7.5 million. He too awaits sentencing.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast