A weeping Aldo Gucci, the 81-year-old patriarch of a fashion empire, was sentenced Thursday to serve a year and a day in federal prison for conspiring to evade more than $7.4 million in U.S. income taxes.
U.S. District Judge Vincent Broderick imposed a $30,000 fine also.
Prior to sentencing, Gucci told the judge, "I am deeply sorry for what has happened. It is the last period of my life which I close very poorly, very negatively."
He broke into tears as he asked the "indulgency" of the court in determining sentence. Gucci faced a possible 15 years in prison.
Has Beverly Hills Home
Gucci is the son of the company's founder, Guccio Gucci, and former chairman of Gucci Shops Inc., which sells fashionable leather goods and clothing. Gucci Shops has about 25 stores in the United States, including one in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Gucci has a home. There are other stores in Japan and Europe.
The Internal Revenue Service began its investigation after a struggle within the company over control of the business and a 1982 lawsuit filed against Gucci Shops by Aldo Gucci's son Paolo, who had just been fired. Matters between father and son have since been patched up.
In January, Gucci pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and two counts of fraud in a scheme involving sham foreign corporations, false billing procedures and the diversion to personal use of funds intended for business purposes during the years 1977 to 1982.
It was the conspiracy charge that brought the prison sentence on Thursday. For the fraud counts, Gucci was sentenced to three years in prison, but that sentence was suspended in favor of a five-year probationary period, during which he will have to perform "on a full-time basis" one year of community service.
In statements in court, Assistant U.S. Atty. Stuart Abrams acknowledged that Gucci was cooperating with the government's continuing investigation but said it was important to show the public that "tax evasion is not a crime that is taken lightly."
Gucci's attorney, Milton Gould, countered that it was "just as important (to show that) the path of repentance is recognized." To put Gucci in prison "would probably be a death sentence," he said.
'A Sturdy Man'
Later in the afternoon, though, Gould said his client was "a sturdy man" and would manage as best he could in prison. Gould said also that he was not surprised by the prison sentence and that "I can't say that it was unjust or harsh."
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Broderick said that, although he was confident that Gucci would not commit another crime, "the question of general deterrence is a persistent question."
Gucci has until Oct. 15 to surrender to federal authorities.