Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: LOS ANGELES
" NEW YORK (CNN) -- Ten members of an international smuggling ring have been arrested and charged with paying more than $500,000 in bribes to smuggle millions of dollars in fake designer goods from China to the United States, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Authorities say a sting targeted a smuggling ring pushing counterfeit goods through a New Jersey port.
The defendants were expected to appear Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas.
The counterfeit goods included designer jeans, Nike shoes, Burberry and Chanel handbags, and Polo and Baby Phat clothing, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
The estimated value of the genuine versions of the goods would be more than $200 million, prompting U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia to describe the case as "one of the largest counterfeit smuggling cases ever brought in United States history."
The suspects arrested Wednesday are accused of smuggling or attempting to smuggle scores of 40-foot-long shipping containers through the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Elizabeth, New Jersey, since June 2006.
The Chinese-made knockoffs were placed in containers with false bills of lading, which are the shipping documents used to determine a cargo's point of origin and destination.
"One bill of lading claimed a container held 'noodles,' when in fact it contained counterfeit Nike sneakers," the news release said.
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After the bogus goods cleared inspection at the New Jersey port, they were transported to New York-area warehouses, where they awaited distribution to retail customers.
According to the news release, the bribes were paid directly to an undercover agent whose "near-daily" conversations with the suspects were secretly recorded or monitored.
The undercover agent posed as a "corrupt longshoreman's union official, stationed at Port Newark, who had the ability to clear imported cargo through the United States customs and border security measures without detection or seizure," the news release said.
The 10 suspects are charged with conspiring to smuggle goods into the U.S., smuggling goods into the U.S. and trafficking in counterfeit goods, the news release states.
If convicted, they face up to 35 years in prison, at least $2.5 million in fines and an obligation to pay restitution to the manufacturers of the genuine versions of the goods.
Among those arrested in the sting were Robin Huff, 46, of New York, a federally licensed customs broker who is accused of using a Customs and Border Patrol database to help push goods through the port.
Also arrested were Chi On Wong, 36, and Man Wai Cheng, 34, both of New York, who operated a Brooklyn-based trucking company, KT Express Inc. Authorities allege Wong and Cheng charged smugglers a premium to transport goods around the New York area.
On Wednesday, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents raided a house in Brooklyn used as KT Express' base of operations and three other locations. Federal agents seized $80,000 in cash and two KT Express trucks allegedly used in the operation, the news release said.
Also arrested Wednesday were: