Three Convicted in $10 Million Du Pont Extortion Attempt
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ Three Argentines have been convicted of trying to extort $10 million from the Du Pont Co. for the return of stolen documents containing trade secrets on Lycra, an elastic fiber used in bathing suits.
A federal jury Tuesday found Bruno Skerianz, Raul Armando Giordano and Antonio Ruben Inigo guilty of conspiracy and attempted extortion. They face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine each at sentencing Feb. 26.
Prosecutors said the defendants demanded $10 million for 1,581 documents stolen from Du Pont’s Lycra plant in Mercedes, Argentina. Lycra is Du Pont’s trade name for spandex, used primarily in clothing such as swimsuits and leotards.
Du Pont was forced to enter into an agreement with the defendants under which they would not work in spandex production for five years and Du Pont would sell spandex yarn to a company chosen by Skerianz, prosecutors said.
The defense claimed that the defendants had not attempted extortion.
Rather, they said, Du Pont learned that Skerianz and the others had the documents and approached them with an offer of $10 million to prevent the papers from falling into the hands of a competitor.
The defense said Skerianz and the others had planned to manufacture spandex for themselves.
Skerianz had worked for Du Pont more than 20 years ago. The others had resigned from the Argentine plant in 1988.
The three defendants and a fourth person, who agreed to testify for the government, were arrested in February in Switzerland after an aborted attempt to return the documents and pick up the $10 million.
A fifth person was arrested later and is fighting extradition from Italy.
Last year, Du Pont had Lycra sales of more than $600 million. The company said it plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next four years to expand its Lycra capacity. Lycra demand has exceeded the supply, Du Pont said.
Du Pont controls more than 50 percent of the spandex market worldwide.