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April 2013: Sentencing Victory for Caviar King

April 2013

The firm recently obtained a rare federal criminal sentence of “time served” for a client. The sentence, which amounted to less than four months in prison, was huge victory for a client facing dozens of years in jail. The outcome was all the more remarkable because this client was originally indicted in 1987 and fled the U.S. before trial. He was recaptured in 2012 and hired Quinn Emanuel.

The client, an Italian immigrant, had worked his way up from cabin-boy on a cruise ship to becoming one of the largest New York importers of Russian and Iranian caviar in the 1980s. In 1987 Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney, Rudy Giuliani, obtained an indictment against the client for avoiding the significant duties owed on imported caviar. According to the indictment, while purporting to re-export the caviar on cruise ships and Pan Am airways first class service, he was actually substituting domestic caviar and selling the Russian and Iranian caviars to New York retailers like Zabars. The case was widely publicized in the New York tabloids. Before trial, the client fled to his native Italy, intending never to return.

The client’s plan changed, involuntarily, when he was changing planes in Panama for a routine trip in Latin America. Although he had changed planes in Panama many times before, this time he was stopped and shipped to Houston, Texas where he was arrested on the old charges. The Marshals transported him to New York to face the 25-year old indictment. He then retained Quinn Emanuel. The firm first negotiated a plea agreement with the Government that limited the client’s potential jail time to four years in prison, and then made a presentation to the district judge in support of a sentence of time served. The court rejected the government’s request for a lengthy additional prison term and sentenced the client to time served. The client is now free, and has returned to his native Italy.