Former president of NKS Distributors Christopher Tigani, 41, was sentenced to 24 months in prison Tuesday morning.
Former president of NKS Distributors Christopher Tigani was sentenced to 24 months in prison Tuesday morning for crimes involving illegal campaign financing and tax fraud, which he pled guilty for in June.
Tigani, 41, was charged by the FBI with making illegal donations to state and General Assembly candidates during the 2004 Delaware elections and the 2008 presidential race. He was also charged with evading $361,000 in taxes.
The once-wealthy liquor distributor faced up to 16 years in prison for his schemes, which involved $200,000 worth of illegal campaign contributions and ordering NKS employees to make political contributions in 2007 and then reimbursing them later. This alone resulted in $70,000 in contributions to the 2008 presidential campaign.
While Tigani’s lawyers argued for home confinement and community service, federal prosecutors asked the judge to sentence the liquor distributor to no less than 25 months in jail in order to send a clear message that those who are wealthy and politically connected cannot bypass the law.
In a packed federal courtroom in Wilmington Tuesday, Tigani shed tears as he pleaded with U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory M. Sleet to spare him from prison.
“I stand before you today guilty as charged,” Tigani said. “While there are many facets in my life, I have no one to blame but myself.”
Tigani asked the judge for leniency so he could “continue righting the wrongs” of his past.
Tigani’s lawyer, Virginia Gibson, argued that her client has shown continuous cooperation and candidness with federal and state investigators over the last year.
She stated that since being fired from NKS Distributors in 2009, Tigani has since started a new liquor distribution company, World Class Wholesale, which brought in $90,000 in revenue in January despite negative publicity that has surrounded its owner.
Gibson claimed that putting Tigani in jail could cause the company to fail and impede him paying off his financial debts to the Internal Revenue Service.
“The best way to pay back the restitution is by keeping his business open, operating and generating revenue,” she said.
Tigani and NKS were also under investigation last year for an alleged deal with the state’s transportation department during the Minner administration that gave his company a lease on 10 acres of Milford property for construction of a warehouse at a fraction of market value.
Gibson maintained during the proceedings that the warehouse was never built on the land, and NKS continues to rent the property for a rate at market value.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Robert Kravetz argued that prison was the necessary punishment in order to deter others from committing similar crimes in the future and slowly putting an end to the “Delaware Way,” which Kravetz described as politicians delivering and well-connected business owners providing them with perks later.
“We’re not naïve to say the “Delaware Way” is going to end today,” he said. “It’s not a knockout punch but it will knock it on its heels.”
Acting U.S. District Attorney David Weiss said after the hearing he was happy with the final judgment.
“It sends a powerful signal to those that would engage in this conduct that you can’t cheat on your taxes and you can’t play games with the political system,” he said.
Tigani has two weeks to appeal the decision. He has until April 9 to get his affairs in order and surrender to U.S. Marshals.