Chris Tigani, the former president of NKS Distributors was already in hot water thanks to a deal with DelDOT made during the Minner administration to lease 10 acres of land in Milford at a fraction of market value. Today, the Department of Justice announced that he's admitted making over $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions during the 2004 Delaware elections and the 2008 U.S. presidential race, and to evading $361,000 in income taxes.
Christopher J. Tigani has admitted to making over $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions during the 2004 Delaware elections and the 2008 presidential election and to evading $361,000 in taxes, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney David Weiss — charges that could send him to jail for up to 16 years.
The former president of NKS Distributors, already under investigation after a deal with DelDOT during the Minner administration gave his company a lease on 10 acres of Milford property at a fraction of market value, was charged by the FBI with making illegal donations to statewide and General Assembly candidates during the 2004 Delaware elections, and to an unnamed presidential candidate in the 2008 race.
“To date, the investigation has uncovered that Tigani caused himself, company employees, and other related parties to bundle at least $219,800 in illegal campaign contributions to federal and state candidates,” a press release from Weiss’ office says.
The charges say that Tigani had NKS employees make donations in their own names, and then reimbursed them with company checks. So what might have appeared to be four different people giving $2,000 each would really be one $8,000 gift from Tigani.
In 2007, the release continues, he used that strategy to funnel $70,400 to a presidential campaign.
Kimberlynn Reeves, a public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the district of Delaware, said the department “has no comment” on which candidates and parties Tigani was funding. The department has only named the positions they were running for.
“According to court documents and facts disclosed at the hearing, Tigani…directly and indirectly solicited numerous NKS employees to make political contributions to candidates running for the offices of President of the United States; the United States Senate; Governor of the State of Delaware; Lieutenant Governor of the State of Delaware; Treasurer of the State of Delaware; the Delaware Senate; and the Delaware General Assembly,” the release says.
In Delaware politics, Tigani is best-known as a friend of former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and a major donor to Vice President Joe Biden when he was a senator and presidential candidate. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he gave $2,300 to Biden’s presidential campaign in 2007, and another $2,300 to Hillary Clinton.
Tigani’s legal donations in 2004 totaled more than $20,000, according to state records and donor lists compiled at the public-service websites www.opensecrets.org and www.followthemoney.org.
He gave the legal maximum of $1,200 each to the re-election campaigns of then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and current Lieutenant Gov. Matt Denn, then a candidate for insurance commissioner. He donated $600 each to Sens. Catherine Cloutier (R-Claymont) and David McBride (D-New Castle), neither of whom were up for re-election that year, and to the re-election of Senate incumbents John Still (R-Dover), Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and Charles Copeland (R-Greenville), all three of whom have served as Senate Minority Leader. He also gave $300 to Senate candidate Liane Sorenson. Another $600 each went to House of Representatives candidates Joseph Miro, Stephanie Ulbrich, John van Sant, Hazel Plant, Roger Roy, Terry Spence, Richard Cathcart and John Viola.
Finally, he gave $100 to current Gov. Jack Markell, who was not up for re-election as state treasurer until 2006.
The tax-evasion charges say Tigani took checks that were supposed to pay debts to NKS and deposited them in his personal accounts instead. He also had the NKS’s controller fake corporate accounting entries that increased the money in his “officer loan account.” By hiding his income, he avoided $361,426 in federal income tax.
“Mr. Tigani further admitted to using NKS corporate coffers as his private piggy bank,” Weiss said. “Today’s plea insures that Mr. Tigani will be held accountable for his actions.”