A man who evaded authorities for 23 years for illegally importing more than $10 million worth of caviar into the United States was spared jail time on Monday. Isidoro “Mario” Garbarino has been in custody since September 10, his capture south of the border.
An Italian national, Garbarino was fined $10,000 and faces deportation back to Italy. Garbarino was indicted in 1987. But while free on bail he fled to Italy in 1989. Then as a fugitive, he hid in South America until his capture in September 2012 by US marshals in Panama, says the Toronto Sun.
Garbarino, who owns Aquamar Gourmet Imports Inc., pled guilty In November to falsifying documentation in classification of imported goods and lying to authorities, and agreed on $3 million in restitution.
Federal prosecutors are investigating the claim that first-class airline passengers who thought they were eating premium beluga caviar were actually being served an economy version called sevruga.
Beluga caviar typically sells for about $300 a pound while sevruga is about half that price.
Yahoo News states that the former caviar importer was charged with smuggling more than 100,000 pounds of foreign caviar into the United States in the 1980s, to evade tariffs. Garbarino had lied to avoid paying customs duty of up to 30 percent, and presented legal documents to back up his claim. His company supplied the product to gourmet stores in New York as well as major air and cruise lines, prosecutors said.
Garbarino nearly cried as he apologized at his sentencing before US District Judge Kevin Duffy:
“I’m sorry. There are no words in the vocabulary for me.”