Guilty plea in Home Depot kickback case
Anthony Tesvich, a purported middleman in a scheme that allegedly saw two Home Depot flooring buyers take millions in bribes from foreign suppliers, will plead guilty to three counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Tesvich’s attorney, Brian Steel, told the newspaper he would make the plea as early as today.
Tesvich was a 19-year employee with Home Depot, where he formerly worked as a product development merchant. Prosecutors allege that Tesvich collected more than $10 million from foreign suppliers from 2002 to 2005 and deposited the money into bank accounts that he controlled.
Tesvich faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison and a minimum fine of $250,000 for the charges.
The civil complaint, filed December 2007, alleges mail and wire fraud and attempted money laundering. Former buyer James Robinson is accused of having used bribe money to purchase two pieces of property near Nashville, Tenn., both of which are in forfeiture proceedings. On Dec. 21, Robinson voluntarily turned over $146,000 in cash to federal agents in the presence of his lawyer, court papers state.
Ronald Johnston, formerly a global product manager since April 2005, is accused of having received cash payments, a 2004 Cadillac Escalade, a fully equipped fitness room, a home theater installation, a refinished basement and $8,276 worth of high-end kitchen appliances in bribes.
Lifetime Brands sees a deeper first-quarter loss
Housewares giant Lifetime Brands reported a first-quarter loss of $6 million, deeper than the $1.3 million loss recorded in the same period last year. Sales fell 5.4 percent to $98.19 million from $103.79 million last year.
The company, which produces housewares under brands including KitchenAid, Cuisinart, Towle and Pfaltzgraff, saw a charge of $2.9 million related to restructuring of the company’s direct-to-consumer business, as well as a $1.5 million charge related to the consolidation of West Coast distribution facilities.
“Most of our wholesale customers experienced lackluster foot traffic during the quarter, as consumers curtailed spending on discretionary items due to continuing uncertainty over the direction of the overall economy,” said Jeffrey Siegel, Lifetime Brands chairman, president and CEO.
Siegel said the sales decline was partially offset by strength in the company’s direct-to-consumer segment, which saw a same-store sales increase of 3.3 percent. The company also saw a 13.5 percent increase in Internet sales.
Weyerhaeuser could sell shipping assets
Federal Way, Wash.-based Weyerhaeuser is seeking strategic alternatives for its Westwood Shipping Line, as well as four regional short-line railroads.
The company said it did not have a set timetable for the plan.
Westwood currently serves customers in 20 ports worldwide, including Japan, Korea, China and North America with a fixed-day, weekly sailing schedule. Westwood is a wholly owned subsidiary that operates four ConBulk vessels used by customers to ship forest products and containerized and oversized cargo, according to the company.
The four railroads — DeQueen & Eastern, Columbia & Cowlitz, MSV and Golden Triangle — ship materials to mills in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Washington. Third-party customers also use the lines for transportation needs.