Federal authorities have charged 34 people in a $500 million smuggling scheme of counterfeit luxury goods.
Defendants allegedly trafficked items that included fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume.
The charges followed an investigation by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into a plot to smuggle millions of dollars worth of Chinese-manufactured goods through ports on the East and West Coasts.
The charges include conspiracy to traffic and trafficking in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to smuggle and smuggling counterfeit goods into the U.S., money laundering conspiracy, immigration fraud and unlawful procurement of naturalization. In addition, the government restrained nine properties in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York, belonging to the defendants.
“This investigation exposed the global nature of intellectual property crimes, allegedly being executed by those arrested today. Counterfeit goods manufactured and smuggled from China with a suggested value close to half a billion dollars were intended to make its way into U.S. markets and into the hands of unsuspecting consumers,” HSI special agent-in-charge Angel M. Melendez. “This investigation should be a crystal clear message that counterfeiting and intellectual property rights violations is anything but a victimless crime, as it harms legitimate businesses, consumers and governments.”
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said smuggling of counterfeit goods “poses a real threat to honest businesses,” and that the Justice Department “is committed to holding accountable those who seek to exploit our borders by smuggling counterfeit goods for sale on the black market.”
Authorities said defendants played various roles in the trafficking of counterfeit goods manufactured in China, brought by ships to the U.S. in 40-foot containers, smuggled through ports of entry disguised as legitimate imports and distributed throughout the country.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Intellectual Property Group and Border Enforcement Security Task Force, and the NYPD Border Security Enforcement Task Force. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New York State Police and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation.
The government’s cases are being prosecuted by senior counsel James S. Yoon of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys William P. Campos and Temidayo Aganga-Williams of the Eastern District of New York and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kaftal of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.