Ex-buyer for Home Depot gets 6 1/2-year term

A former top Home Depot flooring buyer was sentenced Thursday to 61/2 years in federal prison for masterminding a kickback scheme that netted him millions of dollars.

Anthony Tesvich also agreed to pay $8.2 million in restitution for the scheme, which led to the convictions of other ex-Home Depot employees and Tesvich's ex-wife, Melissa Deaton Tesvich.

Tesvich apologized to Home Depot, his former colleagues and his family.

"I wish I could turn back the hands of time, but I cannot," he said. "I'm very sorry."

U.S. District Judge Richard Story delayed Tesvich's reporting date to federal prison until mid-October, so Tesvich can be with his new wife through the end of her pregnancy. The couple is expecting triplets.

From October 2002 to October 2007, Tesvich, a global product manager, took kickbacks from vendors seeking business from Home Depot, paid kickbacks to fellow employees to further the fraud and, after he left the retail giant, continued to pay kickbacks to his former colleagues.

Tesvich, 42, of Atlanta, doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts such as a luxury SUV to his former Home Depot colleagues. He handed out the cash in fast-food bags he called "french fries" and "milkshakes," prosecutors said.

All told, the scheme involved payoffs of more than $2.5 million, according to court records.

The sentencing was delayed for an hour while Story held a private, in-chambers hearing to consider testimony about Tesvich's cooperation with federal authorities since his arrest.

Story said he would keep the proceedings under seal for now. But he noted that Tesvich's cooperation not only applied to past investigations but is "related to other possible cases as well."

Story found Tesvich had provided substantial assistance to authorities, warranting a reduced sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term of at least 10 years before Story gave Tesvich credit for his cooperation.

Story noted that Tesvich, who was raised by his grandparents, started out at Home Depot sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms.

Story said it was "truly tragic" for Tesvich to start from modest beginnings and steadily rise through the ranks, only to end his career in such a way.

"In reality, this was big," the judge said. "There was a lot of money involved."

Although Tesvich cooperated with authorities more so than others involved in the scheme, he was also the most culpable, Story said. "In my view, you were at the top. But for you, much of this may not have happened."