A former Aeropostale clothing executive cannot claim privilege to exclude from his upcoming trial for allegedly taking kickbacks an email listing his assets sent to his company account by an attorney preparing his will, a U.S. district judge in New York has ruled.
Christopher Finazzo, a former Aeropostale chief merchandising officer, was indicted in 2010, accused of sending more than $350 million of Aeropostale's business to a supplier in exchange for kickbacks. Finazzo, who faces mail and wire fraud charges, has pleaded not guilty.
"The Court finds that Finazzo has no reasonable expectation of privacy or confidentiality in any communications he made through his Aeropostale e-mail account," Eastern District Judge Roslynn Mauskopf wrote in United States v. Finazzo, 1:10-cr-00457. "Aeropostale had a clear and long-consistent policy of limiting an employee's personal use of its systems, reserving its right to monitor an employee's usage of the system, and making abundantly clear to its employees, including Finazzo, that they had no right to privacy when using them."
Finazzo's trial is scheduled to begin April 8. Prosecutors have alleged that, in exchange for his directing Aeropostale to buy merchandise from clothing vendor South Bay Apparel, the vendor's owner, Douglas Dey, secretly paid money back to Finazzo. Dey pleaded guilty in September to charges stemming from the scheme.
Finazzo received the email at issue in August 2006 from his personal attorney, Angela Siegel. Attached was a list Siegel had prepared for creating a willincluding several companies Finazzo co-owned with Dey.
Finazzo claims that when he received the email, he sent it to a non-company account and deleted it from his inbox and told Siegel to send confidential information only to another email address.
Later in 2006, during an unrelated internal investigation, a firm retained by Aeropostale, Kroll, uncovered the email. When Aeropostale learned Finazzo had undisclosed ownership interests in companies owned by one of its primary vendors, it fired him.
Finazzo was called to a meeting in November 2006 with then-company chief Julian Geiger and general counsel Edward Slezak, where he was confronted with the email and asked to explain it.
Finazzo went line by line through the list of assets attached to the email and admitted joint ownership with Dey, according to a summary of the meeting in the judge's decision.
Geiger told Finazzo he was being fired. Finazzo insisted he had merely made an honest disclosure mistake and encouraged Aeropostale to continue buying from Dey, according to the decision.