Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cheese Company Executives Found Guilty

Two former executives of Suprema Specialties, Inc., a publicly-traded specialty cheese company in New Jersey, were found guilty of 38 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, and securities fraud related to fictional revenues at the company, which collapsed in 2002.  Mark Cocchiola, a founder and former CEO of the company, and Steve Venechanos, its former CFO, were found guilty after the jury initially told the judge they were deadlocked, but then returned for more deliberations and returned the guilty verdicts on all counts.  According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office (here): "The government presented evidence at trial that between July 2000 and January 2002, Suprema reported approximately $400 million in sales to its six biggest customers, which accounted for over half of its total reported sales for that period. The government’s evidence showed that over 99 percent of that $400 million in sales were entirely fictitious, with no product actually having been sold or shipped."  A story in the Newark Star-Ledger (here) notes that the defendants used the "Richard Scrushy" defense at trial, that they did not know anything about the fraud and were lied to by various subordinates and customers who entered guilty pleas and cooperated with the government.  While that defense worked for Scrushy, it was less successful for Cocchiola and Venechanos, who maintain their innocence and will appeal. (ph)

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