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Ex-Aéropostale executive gets 8 years in prison in federal bribery, fraud case

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A Long Island man who worked as an executive for clothing retailer Aéropostale was sentenced Wednesday to serve eight years in federal prison after being convicted of taking more than $25 million in kickbacks and defrauding the teenage apparel chain.

Christopher Finazzo, 57, of Garden City, was convicted of 14 counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy and wire fraud after a trial in April 2013. In addition to his prison sentence, Finazzo will also need to serve 3 years of supervised release. A federal judge also ordered him to forfeit more than $25 million and pay back $13 million in restitution to Aéropostale.

Prosecutors said the former executive vice president and chief merchandising officer had steered $350 million worth of business to a supplier owned by his pal, Hollywood movie producer Douglas Dey. Finazzo, authorities said, received more than $25 million in kickbacks from Dey’s company, South Bay Apparel Inc., which supplied graphic t-shirts and fleece products. Prosecutors said Finazzo had rebuffed requests from Aéropostale’s chief executive to find cheaper products because he was receiving a cut of the profits from the scheme.

Finazzo worked for the clothing retailer from 1996 until he was fired in November 2006. According to Bloomberg, Finazzo came under suspicion when the company officials found a message from his lawyer in his professional email account. The email, the news outlet reported, contained a list of assets, including his interest in South Bay.

Finazzo’s lawyers had argued that he didn’t what he was doing was wrong, according to the Bloomberg report. The lawyers said he never intended to deprive Aéropostale out of any money and said the retail chain still turned a profit on the clothing. Attorney Robert Zito told Reuters that his client plans to appeal both his conviction and sentence.

Authorities said Dey, 57, of Calverton, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the US Travel Act. He was sentenced earlier this month to serve 42 months in prison. According to IMDb.com, he was an executive producer of five films, including “Blue Valentine,” a 2010 Hollywood drama that starred Ryan Gosling.

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