JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Three people accused of misclassifying Chinese honey as rice fructose in order to avoid more than $1 million in duties have been indicted in federal court on charges related to smuggling goods into the United States and providing false descriptions of the merchandise.
Chin Shih "Jeff" Chou, 48, from Taiwan, Qiao "Dott" Chu, 25, from China, and Wei-Tang Lo, 48, from Hacienda Heights, Calif., represented a number of honey importation companies in executing the scheme.
According to an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the defendants labeled shipping containers filled with Chinese honey as rice fructose instead of honey to avoid a $2.63 per kilo anti-dumping duty. Once the containers of honey passed through customs, they were forwarded to a warehouse, washed of all markings and relabeled as amber honey, which was then sold to domestic purchasers.
"HSI agents and CBP officers working together at our nation's ports of entry provide an important safeguard against those seeking to break the law for their own enrichment," said Susan McCormick, ICE HSI special agent in charge in Tampa. "This type of criminal behavior poses serious dumping risks to domestic U.S. honey producers who are in danger of being run out of the market because of this fraud."
The investigation revealed that Chou and his associates, through various shell companies, successfully imported 900 containers of rice fructose over the past two years. HSI agents, in cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are in the process of seizing or detaining 123 containers of falsely manifested rice fructose located at 11 ports of entry throughout the United States. The loss of duty owed to the U.S. government on these containers alone is approximately $1,150,000.
Intelligence generated by the investigation so far is leading to thousands of barrels of misclassified honey that have already entered the United States. Many more seizures are expected in the continuing investigation.