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August 28, 2015Westminster, CA, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

2 Orange County men sentenced for selling counterfeit Apple goods valued at nearly $3 million

3rd defendant remains at large

WESTMINSTER, Calif. – Two Orange County men were sentenced Friday for money laundering and conspiring to sell counterfeit electronic goods valued at  nearly  $3 million,  including  counterfeit  iPhones  and iPads, following a probe by 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, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit trademark counterfeiting; one felony count of trademark counterfeiting; one felony count of conspiracy to  commit money laundering; one felony count of money laundering; and sentencing enhancements given the value of the goods involved. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office Major Fraud/White Collar Crime Unit.

Both men were sentenced to eight years and four months in jail, which was stayed pending completion of three years’ formal probation. They were ordered to serve one year in jail and forfeit more than $500,000 in cash assets.

Eyad Najjar was arrested by HSI special agents and detectives from FVPD Dec. 10, 2014. Rateb Najjar surrendered to the court Dec. 17, 2014.

A third defendant, Amir Ali Shaerzadeh, 36, of Irvine, is 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, he faces up to 104 years in jail. Shaerzadeh is currently a fugitive with an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Between January 2010 and December 2011, the defendants owned and operated businesses in Fountain Valley that sold counterfeit merchandise imported from Hong Kong and China. They conspired to import and distribute counterfeit trademark items; possessed counterfeit trademark items offered for sale; and engaged in money laundering conspiracy involving numerous registered trademarks including Apple, Nokia, Blackberry, Ferrari, Nintendo, and Google.

The defendants laundered over $5 million and possessed counterfeit merchandise with a retail value of more than $2.8 million including cell phones, tablet computers, portable media players, and game consoles.

“People who sell counterfeit products are essentially stealing from legitimate companies, along with the men and women who depend on those businesses for their livelihoods,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “Beyond undermining our economy and robbing Americans of jobs, the sale of product knockoffs often goes to fund other illegal enterprises. The trafficking of counterfeit goods poses a threat on many levels and we’re determined to see that those who attempt to profit from it pay a price for their crimes.”

The probe into this scheme began in November 2011 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 found inside a safe and funds 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.