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Former Systemax bigwig Carl Fiorentino to fight bribery allegations

Not guilty plea entered at New York District Court

Former Systemax director Carl Fiorentino has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he pocketed millions of dollars in backhanders in return for directing trade towards specific PC component makers.

Fiorentino appeared in the Eastern District Court of New York on Monday to face allegations made last month that he made more than $7m from two suppliers - one in Taiwan and another in California - by placing $230m worth of orders with them from 2003.

A spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York confirmed that Fiorentino entered a not guilty plea, but the brief was unable to comment further.

Demetri M. Jones, an assistant attorney for the district, will lead the case against Fiorentino, and claimed the evidence against the accused included at least 10,000 emails and seven years of financial documents, according to reports.

But Silvia B. Pinera-Vazquez, who is defending Fiorentino, said her client will fight the charges: "He is looking forward to his day in court," she said.

Tiger Direct, the subsidiary of Systemax that Fiorentino controlled, paid $157m to the component maker in Taiwan, while he personally made $6.5m off the back of it, the federal charges claim.

Fiorentino, 56, is also accused of taking $570,000 from a flash memory module maker on the US West Coast that sold $80m worth of gear to Systemax.

It is further claimed that he used his ill-gotten gains to fund tennis lessons for his son and to hire a hip-hop music studio. He was arrested at his $8m home in Florida last month when the charges were brought.

Fiorentino, along with his brothers Gilbert and Patrick, founded Tiger Direct, and transferred to senior roles at Systemax in 1995 when it acquired the business.

All three were axed by the US reseller giant in 2011 amid whistleblower allegations that led to an internal investigation. Carl and Patrick Fiorentino deny any wrongdoing.

Gilbert Fiorentino was investigated by the SEC over claims that he trousered $400,000 in compensation from vendors that traded with Systemax between the start of 2006 and the end of 2010.

He settled out of court with the watchdog, agreed to pay a $65,000 penalty and was banned from holding a directorship at a public company again. He also had to hand back stock options to Systemax valued at $9.1m, and repaid his annual boss of $480,000 for 2010. ®

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