NEW YORK — Aldo Gucci, the 81-year-old patriarch of the Gucci fashion empire, was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison for evading more than $7 million in federal income taxes.
Gucci made a rambling, tearful plea for mercy before he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vincent Broderick. Broderick could have given Gucci up to five years on each of the three counts to which he pleaded guilty. Instead, the 366-day sentence means Gucci will be eligible for parole in about four months.
Broderick allowed Gucci to remain free until Oct. 15.
An Italian citizen, Gucci has agreed to repay the back taxes and a not-yet-determined amount of interest and penalties. A separate fine of $30,000 was imposed by the judge.
"I am still very sorry, deeply sorry for what has happened, for what I have done, and I apply to your indulgency," Gucci told the judge in halting English. "It won't happen to me again, I assure you."
He declared his forgiveness of his son, Paolo, who was among several family members who cooperated with authorities after a falling out with Aldo Gucci. The family-run business has been racked with dissension for several years.
"I forgive him," Gucci said in a breaking voice. "I forgive anybody who wanted me to be here today."
In another apparent reference to his family, Gucci said: "some of them have done their duty. Others have the satisfaction of their revenge, and only God will be their judge."
Assistant U.S. Atty. Stuart Abrams told the judge that in Gucci's case "a prison term is needed to show that repaying isn't enough" in tax-evasion cases.
'A Death Sentence'
Gucci's attorney, Milton Gould, said sending his 81-year-old client to prison "would probably be a death sentence."
Broderick told Gucci that he believed the defendant would not commit any future crimes and that he has already suffered "considerable punishment in the publicity that has already surrounded your case, and in the consequences that have followed in your business."
He added, "I recognize that you are from another culture where our voluntary system of assessment of taxes does not obtain." But he said he felt obliged to send a message to other would-be tax evaders.
The government charged Gucci with using a variety of devices to siphon income from the American company he and his now-deceased brothers founded in 1953, Gucci Shops Inc. More than $11 million was diverted from the company to family members, on which the unpaid taxes amounted to more than $7 million, the government said.
The Gucci fashion business was founded in Florence, Italy, by Aldo Gucci's father, Guccio Gucci.