Delaware businessman sentenced to 2 years in prison on campaign finance charges

A politically-connected Delaware liquor distributor will spend two years in prison after pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions and to committing tax violations.

41-year-old Christopher Tigani broke down in tears Tuesday as he asked Federal Judge Gregory Sleet to keep him out of jail and to sentence him instead to home confinement and community service.  “I am profoundly sorry,” Tigani told the court as members of his family and co-workers looked on.  “I wish to apologize to the people who have been affected by this whole thing.” 

Tigani added that he had done everything the government asked him to do in cooperating with an investigation, which is ongoing.

The case brought out a darker side to what is known as “The Delaware Way,”  often used to refer to bipartisan copperation used to deal with challenges, but also facilitating close relationships between elected officials, business leaders and influential residents in a small state of fewer than one-million people. 

“I’m in no way minimizing what I did.  I take full responsibility for it,” Tigani said.  “I don’t want to go to jail.”

Tigani’s statements followed a presentation from his attorney Virginia Gibson, who detailed Tigani’s building of a new business and donations to schools and community causes – even as he was under a criminal cloud.

“Warehousing Mr. Tigani can do no good,” Gibson said.  “He regrets what he’s done, and he wants to make it right.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kravetz said that a non-custodial sentence of home confinement and community service would “send the wrong message to the public,” adding that Tigani carried out “a conscious effort over a lengthy time period to break the law.”

“It was criminal.  For six years, he believed the ends always justified the means,” Kravetz said.

Tigani pled guilty last year to using his family’s alcoholic beverage distributorship, NKS Distributors, to make illegal campaign contributions.  The two-year sentence is just shy of what prosecutors had been asking for.  Tigani could have recieved up to 16 years in prison.  

Court records suggest some of the illegal campaign contributions he pled guilty to went to Vice President Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Acting Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss said Tigani has been cooperating with an ongoing investigation.  He added that the sentence “sends a powerful signal to those who would engage in this conduct that you can’t cheat on your taxes, and you can’t play games with the political system.”

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