Christopher J. Tigani, a Delaware beer distributor who donated money to Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential race, was sentenced to two years in prison for breaking tax and campaign-contribution laws.
U.S. District Judge Gregory M. Sleet in Wilmington, Delaware, sentenced Tigani to prison, rejecting the 41-year-old’s request that he serve his sentence in home confinement.
“I believe your behavior paints the picture of a man who felt entitled,” Sleet said, citing Tigani’s privileged upbringing as a member of the family that owned the state’s exclusive distributor of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV products.
Tigani, a Delaware resident and former president of NKS Distributors Inc., admitted last year that he broke federal election laws by reimbursing his employees for contributions he ordered them to make in 2007. The contributions included $70,400 to presidential campaign committee for Biden, who was then a senator from Delaware, according to court filings.
“He enjoyed the proximities of power,” Tigani’s lawyer, Virginia Gibson, told Sleet. “When a powerful politician asked for his help, he responded,” she said.
Tigani “is probably the best beer salesman on the East Coast,” said prosecutor Robert Kravetz. Yet “his conduct was just too severe” for “a non-custodial sentence,” he told the judge.
Tigani also pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements on income tax returns, a crime punishable by as much as three years in prison, according to prosecutors.
Tigani argued that the best way for him to pay a debt to the Internal Revenue Service was to allow him to continue operating his five-employee liquor distributorship. The company, World Class Wholesale, had $90,000 in revenue in January, according to court records.
Sleet said he is obliged to sentence people to terms that “are sufficient but not greater than necessary.” In this case, the judge said, he weighed the facts that Tigani took “large sums of money from NKS,” appeared to be “comingling” money from his new business for personal expenses and has been in rehabilitation for use of methamphetamine.
Sleet said the campaign-donation irregularities have the added effect of causing candidates unwittingly “to file false reports” to federal election officials.
Tigani’s tax evasion cost the government $300,000, the judge said.
Sleet gave Tigani credit for cooperating with prosecutors who were investigating public corruption in Delaware, even though those inquiries “apparently bore no fruit,” said the judge, a former U.S. Attorney in the state.
“I stand before you today guilty as charged,” a teary Tigani told Sleet today. “I have no one to blame but myself.”
At the White House, Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Biden, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail and phone call requesting comment on the sentencing.
The criminal case is U.S. v. Tigani, 11-cr-42, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). Tigani’s bankruptcy case is In re Christopher J. Tigani, 10-11855, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).