A former top diamond sales associate for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York must spend three months in jail for cheating on her commissions, according to a news report in the New York Post. As part of her punishment, she allegedly must also pay a $96,000 fine and serve five years probation and 100 hours of community service.
According to the Post report, Cecille Villacorta sold $27 million in fine jewelry to some 3,300 customers for the flagship Fifth Avenue store before being charged with stealing $1 million; allegedly, prosecutors claim Villacorta funneled funds to her favorite customers through an elaborate scheme of mixing refunds, discounts, and sales credits. In March this year, jurors acquitted her of that charge, however, after she argued that Saks condoned the practices to keep customers happy. Villacorta was charged for taking $48,000 in illegal commissions.
According to the report, Villacorta’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said he located five fellow employees who also routinely made similar kickbacks to preferred jewelry buyers with Saks’ blessing, but when he tried to call one to the stand, prosecutors threatened to press charges, thus scaring the individual into silence. Villacorta alone was prosecuted because her high sales volume was costing the company money in raises, bonuses and commissions, he said.
The Post report states that Villacorta will appeal the conviction, which has left her vulnerable to deportment back to her native Philippines, and is meanwhile pursuing a civil suit against Saks. With regard to sentencing, the judge considered Villacorta’s clean criminal record, age, and unblemished prior career as a saleswoman for both Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier. He told her to turn herself in on August 10 to begin serving her sentence.