Financial regulators have accused the former head of CompUSA of engineering about $400,000 in kickbacks from the company’s suppliers.
Federal investigators said Miami-based Gilbert Fiorentino allegedly “demanded” as much as $10,000 a month from one supplier to Systemax, the New York-based company that bought the CompUSA brand and eventually parted ways with Fiorentino over the allegations.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against Fiorentino on Monday but also announced a settlement that requires him to surrender about $10 million worth of stock and bonuses from tenure at a company he and his brothers started in the 1980s.
Fiorentino, 51, did not admit wrongdoing in the SEC settlement, and said in a statement Monday, “This matter was, in fact, settled with the company over a year and a half ago. I am pleased to get this behind me and move on to the next chapter in my life.”
The SEC settlement stemmed from one of the most visible corporate fraud cases to hit South Florida’s limited roster of publicly traded companies tied to national brands.
Fiorentino and his brothers started a Miami software company called Tiger Direct in 1987, which was bought by the publicly traded Systemax in 1995. Systemax, based in Port Washington, New York, left Gilbert Fiorentino in charge after the purchase, and TigerDirect bought CompUSA in 2008.
At the time, Fiorentino and brothers Carl and Patrick promised to turn around the struggling computer chain, which was getting hammered by the shift to online computer purchases.
But soon insiders were claiming the Miami operations faced problems of the Fiorentinos’ making. Company insiders alleged the Fiorentinos were stealing merchandise and demanding kickbacks — chargest that prompted a whistleblower investigation by the Systemax. The SEC probe began after the internal investigation by Systemax, which resulted in Gilbert’s resignation in May 2011 and the firing of Carl and Patrick, according to SEC filings by the company.
The settlement with Systemax included a provision that Gilbert Fiorentino surrender about $10 million in company stock and bonuses — the same penalty laid out in the SEC settlement announced Monday. The SEC deal also requires Fiorentino to pay a $65,000 fine and agree not to ever serve again as a corporate officer or director.
Carl and Patrick were not named in the SEC complaint against their brother, and neither face charged by the SEC, an agency spokesman said.
Systemax did not respond to a request for comment Monday.