A federal judge has awarded Hoechst Celanese Corp. more than $2 million in damages in its civil case against Thomas Popoli, the Fort Myers, Fla., businessman convicted of fraud and conspiracy for selling Taiwanese acetal resin under a Hoechst trade name.
Popoli is awaiting sentencing after being convicted Jan. 22 on 23 criminal counts. He now must pay Summit, N.J.-based Hoechst Celanese treble damages based on $696,828 — the amount Popoli's Nylon Engineering Resins business earned by using Hoechst's Celcon trade name between August 1993 and October 1994, according to an estimate by Judge Susan Bucklew.
In her Feb. 4 ruling, issued in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, Bucklew wrote that she based her decision on ``NER's and Popoli's intentional and knowing use of a counterfeit mark.''
Popoli was convicted of mislabeling Tepcon, an acetal made by Taiwan Engineering Plastics Co., as Celcon, a more-expensive acetal made by Hoechst.
Hoechst was satisfied with the verdict, according to Carl Amond, vice president and general manager of the firm's technical polymers unit.
``We're still trying to figure out if we're going to be able to collect any of it, but it sends a strong message to anybody in the industry that that's not the way to do business,'' Amond said in a telephone interview.
The company is involved in two other resin counterfeiting cases, including one in which a Tennessee firm allegedly used counterfeit Celcon.
Bucklew's ruling recounts how Popoli and NER deceived several large buyers, including Ashland Chemical Co. of Dublin, Ohio.
``If Ashland had known the product to be Tepcon resin, it would not have purchased the product from NER and Popoli,'' Bucklew wrote, adding ``the responsible individual at Ashland had never heard of Tepcon resin and did not know whether Tepcon resin met Ashland's internal product specifications.''
The ruling also brings to light other details of the case against NER and Popoli, including:
Using forged Hoechst stationery to prepare a letter to a Chicago bag maker and then signing the letter with the name of a fictional Hoechst Celanese employee to try to convince the bag maker to print counterfeit Celcon bags.
Instructing Trans Read Warehouse of Bedford Park, Ill., to relabel stripped bags of Tepcon as Celcon and to deliver them to customers as Celcon.
Failing to perform tests to determine the physical properties of Tepcon until they had been counterfeiting the product for more than a year.
A Florida jury convicted Popoli of 23 counts of fraud and conspiracy. He now faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000 at an April 17 sentencing.
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.