Caviar Distributor Gets Time Served for Fraud Scheme

A former caviar distributor who spent more than 23 years as a fugitive was sentenced to time served for illegally importing more than 100,000 pounds of Russian and Iranian caviar worth more than $10 million.

Isidoro Garbarino, 69, an Italian citizen who was president of the now-defunct Aquamar Gourmet Imports, was also fined $10,000 today by U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy in Manhattan. Prosecutors said Garbarino had faced as long as four years in prison while defense lawyer Marc Greenwald asked the judge to spare his client from serving any time.

“This case is old and more importantly the defendant is old,” said Duffy, who is 79. “I know what old means, perhaps much more than anybody else in the courtroom. The punishment is the shame Isidoro Garbarino brought to himself and more importantly to his family.”

“For the rest of his life, he will have to face up to that fact, and if he ever has grandchildren, they will say, ‘Oh, yes, my grandfather, he’s the felon,’” Duffy said.

The judge said Garbarino would be deported immediately to Italy and wouldn’t be permitted to see his son and other family members who were in court.

Fled U.S.

The case was first filed by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani in 1987 and Garbarino fled the U.S. in July 1989. He has been in custody in a federal jail in Brooklyn, New York, since his arrest in September.

During the scheme, which the U.S. said ran from 1984 to 1987, Garbarino illegally imported Iranian and Russian caviar to high-end shops and some of the world’s largest air and cruise lines.

Shipping manifests show the caviar was sold to now-defunct Pan American World Airways Inc. and served to first class passengers on international flights.

Duffy said that, in his view, the victims of the fraud scheme purchased “high-end caviar” and instead received a lesser-quality product.

The judge called the case a “victimless” crime and said that no one suffered as a result of the defendant’s crimes.

“Your victims have made it through and did not die in 1985, or 1986, that was a long time ago,” he told Garbarino.

Garbarino pleaded guilty in November to one count of falsely classifying imported goods and one count of making false statements in connection with the importation of the caviar. He also agreed to make $3 million restitution to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office said represents the duties, penalties and interest he owes for the unlawful shipments.

The case is U.S. v. Garbarino, 87-cr-00860, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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