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Ex-Systemax exec pleads not guilty in bribery

Carl Fiorentino, a former Systemax executive, leaves federal

Carl Fiorentino, a former Systemax executive, leaves federal court Monday afternoon after being arraigned on charges of bribery in front of Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein in Central Islip. (July 8, 2013) Photo Credit: James Carbone

A former executive for Port Washington electronics retailer Systemax Inc. pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges of steering contracts to companies in exchange for kickbacks.

Carl Fiorentino, 56, appeared in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, where he is accused of taking more than $7 million in bribes from computer-component vendors, authorities said. In return, he gave the suppliers more than $230 million in business, the authorities said.

Demetri M. Jones, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the evidence included more than 10,000 emails and seven years of financial documents.

Fiorentino's attorney, Silvia B. Piñera-Vazquez, said he plans to vigorously contest the charges. "He is looking forward to his day in court," she said after the hearing.

Fiorentino, who is free on bail after being arrested at his home in Coral Gables, Fla., last month, was president of Systemax's computer retail subsidiary, TigerDirect.

Between 2003 and 2011 he bribed suppliers in California and Taiwan, using the proceeds to pay for tennis lessons, credit card bills and an $8-million home in Coral Gables, according to an indictment accusing him of mail fraud, wire fraud and other crimes. The charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.

A spokeswoman for Systemax did not return a call seeking comment. Last month the company issued a statement saying the indictment "relates solely to the action of Fiorentino" and "has no impact on the company."

Fiorentino built TigerDirect along with his brothers -- Gilbert Fiorentino and Patrick Fiorentino -- and all three continued to work there after Systemax acquired the business in 1995.

The three brothers were fired, however, in 2011 after a whistle-blower sparked an internal investigation of the company's Miami operations. Later that year Systemax filed a lawsuit in Florida accusing Patrick and Carl of stealing millions from the company. Both deny the allegations.

In 2012, the third brother, Gilbert, was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of siphoning more than $400,000 in merchandise and undisclosed compensation from Systemax. He settled the civil charges without admitting wrongdoing, agreeing to repay the company and pay a $65,000 fine.

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