SEATTLE — A Seattle-area tech supply company and its owner were sentenced Friday for conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, following an investigation by the Seattle-Tacoma Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Seattle) led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
ConnectZone.com, LLC, of Lynnwood, was sentenced to five years' organizational probation. Its owner, Daniel Oberholtzer, will serve 37 months in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones also ordered the forfeiture the proceeds from the counterfeit sales amounting to nearly $717,000.
According to court records, ConnectZone.com, LLC and Oberholzer conspired with a Chinese company to produce counterfeit Cisco Systems network products that were later sold on websites operated by ConnectZone as genuine products. The BEST Seattle investigation revealed the company obtained its counterfeit products from multiple foreign sources including the Shanghai, China-based Shenzhen Xiewei Electronic, LTD. The evidence included numerous emails sent between the conspirators as they ran their scheme including emails describing a plan for "Operation Cisco" in which the defendants laid out their plan to obtain counterfeit Cisco products. To evade detection, investigators say the defendants mislabeled the counterfeit shipments as "samples."
In total, four individuals and two companies were charged in the indictment returned in January 2013. Defendant Edward Vales was sentenced June 13 to two years' probation and five months' home confinement for mail fraud. Lance Wilder was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, two counts of mail fraud and four counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods following an April 7 jury trial. Wilder is scheduled to be sentenced July 25. Their Chinese co-conspirator Mao Ming, aka BoB Mao, remains at large.
BEST Seattle is comprised of officers and investigators from HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the FBI; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Seattle and Port of Seattle police departments. BEST Seattle investigates smuggling and related crimes and combats criminal organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities at the Seattle and Tacoma seaports and adjacent waterways.