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The Other Players in the Scandal

January 30, 1994|DONALD WOUTAT

California's wine scandal ensnared numerous growers and vintners who were named in 17 civil lawsuits filed by the attorney general, all of which were settled out of court with the payment of fines. In addition, federal criminal charges were filed against seven men and three wineries. All pleaded guilty or were convicted.

According to court records and interviews, the other criminal cases--besides Bronco--involved:

* Michael Licciardi, partner in Stockton wine brokerages Corvette Co. and Costa & Licciardi, who was convicted of conspiracy after a 1991 federal jury trial. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison but remains free on appeal.

Licciardi bought grapes and sold most of them to Delicato Vineyards in Manteca, where he had his own office. He was accused of misrepresenting 4,900 tons of grapes valued at $3.1 million. The grapes made over 900,000 gallons of wine with a retail value of $18 million.

Licciardi bought many of the grapes from growers Nick and Frank Bavaro--who separately pleaded guilty--and contended he didn't know what was going on. But prosecutors portrayed him as the mastermind.

Prosecutors also believed Licciardi had hidden his activities from his semi-invalid father, Jack, who ran the brokerages. About four months before Michael Licciardi's trial, his father was shot to death in his Stockton home. The case has not been solved, but Stockton police say the homicide was apparently unrelated to the wine fraud case.

* Delicato Vineyards, which paid a $1-million fine in 1992, and its president, Anthony Indelicato, who was barred from the business for five years. Investigators said the Delicato winery unwittingly bought the misrepresented grapes from Licciardi, but after being notified of this by federal agents, vineyard officials altered and destroyed records to try to erase the deception and sell the wine at the higher prices.

* Nick, 37, and Frank Bavaro, 32, owners of Bavaro Brothers in Escalon, who served 21 and 15 months, respectively, after pleading guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud.

They were accused of misrepresenting 6,500 tons of grapes valued at $4 million, selling them not only through Licciardi's Delicato connection but directly to Sebastiani Vineyards, Chas. Krug Winery, Lost Hills Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery, Bear Creek Winery and Master Cellars Winery.

* Angelo Papagni and his son, Demetrio, owners of then-bankrupt D. Papagni Fruit Co. in Madera, who pleaded guilty to misrepresenting the content of about 500,000 gallons, most of it sold under the Papagni label. Demetrio spent six months in a halfway house and Angelo is serving an 18-month term.

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