Three Convicted in $10 Million Du Pont Extortion Attempt
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ Three Argentinian nationals have been found guilty of trying to extort $10 million from the Du Pont Co. for the return of stolen documents the company claimed contained trade secrets for the production of Lycra.
Lycra is Du Pont’s trade name for spandex, an elastic fiber used primarily in clothing such as swimming suits and leotards.
A federal jury deliberated about two hours Tuesday before returning guilty verdicts for conspiracy and attempted extortion against Bruno Skerianz, Raul Armando Giordano and Antonio Ruben Inigo.
They each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District judge Joseph Longobardi set sentencing for Feb. 26.
Jose Petrosino, another defendant, is fighting extradition from Italy. Charges were dropped against Maria I. Lorenzo de Bianchini, who agreed to testify for the federal government.
During the nine-day trial, the prosecution portrayed Skerianz as the mastermind behind the extortion attempt.
The defense, however, claimed Skerianz had not attempted extortion because he and the others had planned to manufacture spandex for Radicci, an Italian textile manufacturer.
The defense argued that Du Pont initiated the contact with Skerianz after Mexican textile manufacturer Isaac Assa told the Wilmington-based chemical giant that Skerianz had the documents. Assa was a former employer of Skerianz.
The prosecution argued Du Pont had been induced against its will to agree to pay $10 million for 1,581 documents concerning Lycra production that were stolen from its Lycra manufacturing plant in Mercedes, Argentina.
The prosecution said Du Pont was forced to enter into an agreement with Skerianz and the others. Under the agreement, Skerianz and the others would not work in spandex production for five years. In addition, during that period, Du Pont would agree to sell 20 tons of spandex yarn per month to a company chosen by Skerianz.
The negotiations had been conducted between Du Pont officials and New York attorney Marvin Gersten, who represented Skerianz.
Among the prosecution witnesses were Skerianz’ two brothers, both of whom work for Du Pont. One brother, Ferre Scheriase, a Du Pont vice president for Latin American operations, testified that during a conversation with Skerianz, his brother said, ‴I am willing to talk with anybody in Du Pont. If someone needs to know the value of this (the documents), it is worth $10 million to me.‴
Skerianz had worked for Du Pont more than 20 years ago, while the others had resigned from the Mercedes plant in the fall of 1988.
The three defendants and Lorenzo de Bianchini were all arrested in February in Geneva, Switzerland, after an aborted attempt to return the documents and pick up the $10 million.
Petrosino was arrested later.
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. According to Du Pont, the Lycra demand has exceeded the supply.
Du Pont controls more than 50 percent of the spandex market worldwide, according to company officials.