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Published on February 29, 2024
Florida Man Admits Role in Multi-State $4 Million Kickback Scheme Defrauding Williams SonomaSource: Google Street View

Augusto Alizo, a Florida man, admitted to his role in a fraudulent kickback scheme that siphoned more than $4 million from Williams Sonoma, the Department of Justice reported Thursday. Alizo, a resident of Weston, pleaded guilty to charges in relation to a conspiracy involving undisclosed kickbacks from commercial real estate broker commission rebates that were intended for the San Francisco-based retailer.

As part of a nefarious trio, Alizo worked with a Williams Sonoma Inc. Vice President and Kourosh Mirmehdi, who reported directly to Alizo at a global logistics company, to trick the company and WSI. According to a statement from United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Michael Mosley, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, their scheme redirected funds that rightfully belonged to Williams Sonoma into their own pockets. These sordid dealings spanned multiple states, including Georgia, New Jersey, Arizona, and California.

In court, Alizo confessed to disguising Mirmehdi's involvement with WSI to their employer and acknowledged that he and his accomplices disguised their pilfering of rebate commissions. The DOJ statement detailed that the funds were funneled through REM Group, a shell company not affiliated with WSI, with proceeds landing in the conspirators' personal bank accounts.

Alizo's plea agreement revealed his reception of about 25% of the illicit broker commissions, totaling around $965,526.51 from the overall $4,110,323.81 haul. Despite his apparent remorse, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire fraud conspiracy count. His sentencing is expected on August 27, 2024, as noted by the DOJ.

With Alizo's recent admission, the case continues to build, as co-defendants Mirmehdi and Michael Podhurst previously pleaded guilty in May and June 2023, respectively. The charges against the unnamed Williams Sonoma Vice President remain unsettled, further entwining this narrative of deception and greed that bedeviled a well-regarded home-goods empire. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christiaan Highsmith leads the prosecution, with the assistance of Aarian Beti, stemming from an investigation by the Criminal Investigation division of the IRS.