WESTMINSTER, Calif. — Two men are scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Orange County on money laundering and conspiracy charges for selling counterfeit electronic goods valued at nearly $3 million, including counterfeit iPhones and iPads, following a probe by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Fountain Valley Police Department (FVPD).
Rateb Said Najjar, 60, and his son, Eyad Rateb Najjar, 36, both of Westminster, are each charged with 134 felony counts of money laundering; six felony counts of manufacturing and sale of a counterfeit mark; two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime with sentencing enhancements for property damage over $1.3 million; and money laundering in excess of $2.5 million. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 104 years in jail.
Eyad Najjar was arrested Dec. 10 by HSI special agents and detectives from FVPD. Rateb Najjar surrendered himself to the court Dec. 17. Rateb Najjar and Eyad Najjar are out of custody on $750,000 bail. Both defendants are expected to be arraigned Jan. 16 at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-1, of the West Justice Center in Westminster.
A third defendant, Amir Ali Shaerzadeh, 36, of Irvine, is charged with the same counts as listed above and is currently a fugitive with an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Between January 2010 and December 2011, the defendants are accused of owning and operating businesses in Fountain Valley that sold counterfeit merchandise imported from Hong Kong and China. They are accused of conspiring to import and distribute counterfeit trademark items, possessing counterfeit trademark items offered for sale, and engaging in money laundering conspiracy involving numerous registered trademarks including Apple, Nokia, Blackberry, Ferrari, Nintendo, and Google. The defendants are accused of laundering over $5 million and possessing counterfeit merchandise with a retail value of more than $2.8 million including cell phones, tablets, computers, portable media players, and game consoles.
In November 2011, an investigation began after officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a shipment of tablets that were found to contain counterfeit software. During the investigation, FVPD and HSI seized a significant volume of counterfeit merchandise from the various businesses tied to the defendants, along with more than $500,000 in cash inside a safe and funds seized from multiple bank accounts.
The International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition estimates that product counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses $200 to $250 billion a year in lost revenue.
Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn of the Major Fraud Unit/White Collar Crime Team is prosecuting this case.