Defendants Trafficked Items that Included Fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch Handbags, Michael Kors Wallets, Hermes Belts and Chanel Perfume
Earlier today, six indictments and one criminal complaint were unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging a total of 22 defendants with illegally bringing into the United States millions of dollars of Chinese-manufactured goods by smuggling them through ports of entry on the East and West Coasts. One defendant is also charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Twenty-one defendants were arrested this morning, and their initial court appearances and arraignments are scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom.
The charges include conspiracy to traffic, and trafficking, in counterfeit goods; conspiracy to smuggle, and smuggling, counterfeit goods into the United States; money laundering conspiracy; immigration fraud and unlawful procurement of naturalization. In addition, the government restrained nine real properties in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York belonging to the defendants.
“The defendants allegedly smuggled millions of dollars of counterfeit luxury goods into our country, depriving companies of their valuable and hard-earned intellectual property,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The illegal smuggling of counterfeit goods poses a real threat to honest businesses, and I commend our federal prosecutors and partners at HSI and the NYPD for their outstanding work on this important investigation. The Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable those who seek to exploit our borders by smuggling counterfeit goods for sale on the black market.”Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
According to the court filings, the defendants played various roles in the trafficking of counterfeit goods manufactured in China, brought by ocean-going ships to the United States in 40-foot shipping containers, smuggled through ports of entry disguised as legitimate imports and distributed throughout the country. The counterfeit goods included items such as fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume. The defendants’ roles included:
Qi Feng Liang, Wo Qi Liu, Zhi Ming Zhang and Yu Ming Wong served as shipping container importers. They arranged to smuggle counterfeit goods into the United States through the Port of New York/New Jersey and elsewhere. They fraudulently used the names, addresses and other identifying information of legitimate import companies and falsified the descriptions of the containers’ contents on U.S. customs paperwork associated with the containers of counterfeit goods. They used “burner” phone numbers and “burner” email accounts—obtained by using false or incomplete information—in order to conceal their true identities. The counterfeit goods were transported by trucks to self-storage facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, New York, where the goods were unloaded and stored. Qi Feng Liang, Wo Qi Liu, Zhi Ming Zhang and Yu Ming Wong smuggled or attempted to smuggle 23 40-foot shipping containers into the country loaded with counterfeit items. The estimated Manufacturers’ Suggested Retail Price of these items, had they been genuine, would have been more than $450 million.
Josstina Lin, Xue Wei Qu, Xi Quan Huang, Yun Lei Huang, Yun Wu Huang, Si Lung Chung, Le Wei Zheng, Xiao Ying Huang, Qiong Chan Mu, Ren Zhong Zhu, Cheng Xu Yu, Jin Hua Zhang, Jian Hua Zhu, Yong Lin Dong and Cai Ying Lin managed the receipt, storage and distribution of counterfeit goods smuggled into the United States by the importers. They resold the counterfeit items to other wholesale and retail sellers in New York, California and elsewhere in the United States.
Wei Mei Gao, Sheng Miao Xia and Jie Mei Chen used private shipping businesses they controlled to distribute the counterfeit goods smuggled into the United States by the importers and handled by the wholesale distributors. The domestic shippers also facilitated payments by the wholesale and retail counterfeit goods sellers to the wholesale distributors. Jie Mei Chen is also charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization.
As alleged in the indictments, some defendants additionally conspired to launder the proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods, and others illegally concealed their involvement in the trafficking of counterfeit goods when applying for immigration benefits.