Giovannucci, 32, was an owner of Fante's, a popular South Philadelphia cookware store at the time of his arrest last Dec. 7. Last night, he said he was "pleased frankly, that they've finally seen the light on this topic. I'm still disappointed, hurt and sad that it has taken them quite so long and effectively caused great damage to me."
Giovannucci and three associates were arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement agents after Giovannucci allegedly delivered a $176,000 deposit to the informant at the Days Inn in Bensalem, Bucks County, unaware the meeting was being videotaped by authorities.
Giovannucci was often seen on the set of "The Frugal Gourmet," a TV show his company sponsored. He disassociated himself from the family cookware business after his arrest.
His attorney, Thomas C. Carroll, declined to speculate on the reasons for the federal action yesterday, but noted that "our position in this case was that the government had entered into an improper financial arrangement with its informant to entrap my client."
In a pretrial motion, Carroll noted that the government's informant, an unidentified woman, in the last few years had earned close to $550,000 in commissions in "forfeiture cases" where the government confiscates all goods believed to be derived from the sale of illegal drugs. In such cases, informants usually get 25 percent of whatever is confiscated, he said.
"Our point was with massive financial inducements like that, it gave her a reason to set the sting up in a way to further her own financial gain rather than to detect and prosecute drug dealers," Carroll said.
Charges also were dismissed against the other defendants, Aca Blake, 31, of Callowhill Street near 17th, a male model, and Leonard Mills, 33, and Calvin Belin, 36, both of the Bronx, N.Y.