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Florida man pleads guilty to $4 million scheme to defraud Williams-Sonoma retail firm

PIX Now - Morning Edition 3//1/24
PIX Now - Morning Edition 3//1/24 10:56

A Florida man on Wednesday pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme involving the Bay Area-based company Williams-Sonoma, federal prosecutors said.

Augusto Alizo admitted to conspiring with two people, one of whom was a vice president at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSI), to divert and pocket more than $4 million in real estate broker commission rebates.

WSI is based in San Francisco and operates Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and West Elm home goods retailers.

Alizo was employed at a global logistics company that helped clients find commercial real estate, including large commercial warehouses.

According to prosecutors and Alizo's plea agreement, he did not tell his employers at his company that his now co-defendant and former coworker Kourosh Mirmehdi, to whom he directly reported, was helping WSI obtain commercial warehouse space.

By concealing the deal, prosecutors said Alizo, Mirmehdi and the WSI executive colluded to pocket real estate broker commissions rebates that should have gone to WSI. Instead, the payments went to a shell company owned by the WSI vice president and then distributed between the Alizo, Mirmehdi and the V.P.

As part of his plea agreement, Alizo admitted that he acted with the intent to deceive and cheat both his employer and WSI in order to commit fraud.

In all, Alizo said the three co-conspirators obtained a total of $4.1 million, and he personally pocketed $965,526.

Upon his indictment last April, Alizo was charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy. Under the plea agreement, Alizo pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy. If he complies with the agreement, the remaining counts will be dismissed, prosecutors said.

Alizo, who is out on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 27. He is facing up to 20 years in federal prison.

Mirmehdi pleaded guilty last May and charges against the WSI vice president are pending, the U.S. Department of Justice said. 

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