NEW YORK — Nearly $25.8 million: That’s the amount that Aéropostale Inc.’s former chief merchandising officer, Christopher Finazzo, has to forfeit as a result of his conviction last week of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
Jurors in the Finazzo criminal fraud trial on Thursday returned guilty verdicts on 14 counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. The 12-member panel returned to court Monday to determine the forfeiture phase in which they unanimously decided in a special verdict that Finazzo must forfeit almost $25.8 million; all assets of a subsidiary of South Bay Apparel; four pieces of real estate in Calverton, N.Y., that the jury determined were acquired by the subsidiary from ill-gotten gains from the fraud and up to $300,000 in a TD Ameritrade account.
Finazzo, 57, was indicted in 2010 in connection with a multimillion dollar kickback scheme involving one of the retailer’s key vendors, South Bay Apparel. Government prosecutors presented evidence that Finazzo directed more than $350 million in orders while at Aéropostale to South Bay and in turn received more than $25 million in illegal kickbacks from the vendor.
U.S. District Court Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf in Brooklyn told the jurors that they need to find a proper connection between each asset at issue and the convictions determined last week.
After statements from counsel on both sides and the recalling of one witness to the stand, Judge Mauskopf instructed jurors on the law, telling them that they need to find guilt only on the “preponderance of the evidence,” which means a “fact more likely true than not true.” It is a lower standard than that which jurors used last week to decide guilt on the crimes charged, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The forfeiture was sent to the jurors around noontime and the verdict was reached in two hours. Finazzo was calm, but seemed tired, as the verdict was read. One family member was present Monday, compared with the past three weeks when he was surrounded by family and friends in the courtroom.
According to legal sources, the government hasn’t made any determination yet on whether it will seek restitution in the case. That will be determined at sentencing, which could be in a few weeks.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the investigation of the case.