A Florida jury returned 23 guilty verdicts Jan. 22 in an acetal counterfeiting case against Thomas Popoli and his Fort Myers, Fla.-based business, Nylon Engineering Resins Inc.
All 23 counts were for charges of fraud and conspiracy. Popoli was accused of importing Asian acetal into the United States in 1993 and 1994 and passing it off as more-expensive, U.S.-made resin, evading as much as $200,000 in customs duties, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office in Fort Myers.
Popoli was acquitted of four counts of money laundering and two counts of tampering with a witness. He also agreed to forfeit $350,000 in proceeds from sales of the acetal he falsely imported.
Popoli now faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000 at an April 17 sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Barclift, who prosecuted the case, said he expects that Popoli will receive a jail term of 21/2-31/2 years.
Popoli was accused of mislabeling Tepcon, an acetal made by Taiwan Engineering Plastics Co., as Celcon, a more-expensive acetal made by Hoechst Celanese Corp. of Summit, N.J. Celcon sold for $1.30-$1.50 a pound in North America between 1992 and 1994, while Tepcon sold for less than $1 a pound in Taiwan during that same period.
Hoechst owned 50 percent of Tepco when the suit was originally filed, but the materials are different in that Tepcon contains melamine, an additive that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Popoli has 10 days from the announcement of the verdict to file an appeal. Barclift said he expected Popoli to appeal.
Neither Popoli nor his lawyer, Marc Neurik of Fort Lauderdale, could be reached for comment. Popoli had maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings, saying in an August interview that he believed the material he imported was Celcon because it contained a marking that Hoechst uses on that material.
Hoechst officials declined to comment on the verdict.
U.S. District Court in Fort Myers had ruled in Hoechst's favor in a counterfeiting suit that was decided in August.
The company declined to reveal the amount it was seeking from Popoli and the court has not decided on an amount in the case.