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July 1, 2015Washington, DC, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

4 charged with counterfeiting Apple, Sony products

Four people were charged in Newark, New Jersey, today with allegedly smuggling 40,000 counterfeit electronic devices and accessories into the United States from China with an estimated value of $15 million. 

Andreina Becerra, 30, a Venezuelan national, and Roberto Volpe, 33, an Italian national, both of Miami; Jianhua Li, 40, a Chinese national and resident of Guangzhou, China; and Rosario La Marca, 52, an Italian national and resident of Italy, were accused in an eight-count indictment of importing and trafficking fake iPhones, iPads and iPods bearing counterfeit Apple trademarks and fake camcorders bearing counterfeit Sony trademarks, as well as smuggling, structuring and international money laundering.

The defendants were arrested last week, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in a coordinated multi-district effort by HSI in Los Angeles, Miami and Newark.

“Trafficking counterfeit items is a serious crime that won’t be tolerated,” said Bruce Foucart, director of the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center). “Counterfeiting wrecks the economy, endangers the health and safety of consumers, and funds criminal organizations engaged in more heinous activities.”

According to the indictment, the individuals attempted to avoid detection by U.S. customs officials over the course of five years by shipping electronic devices separately from labels bearing counterfeit trademarks, and then packaging the items together once they cleared customs. The defendants then distributed the devices throughout the United States to co-conspirators. 

Proceeds from the sales of the devices were allegedly funneled back to accounts in Florida and New Jersey via structured cash deposits, and broken into multiple deposits of less than $10,000 each to avoid bank reporting requirements. The indictment states that a portion of the funds was then transferred to co-conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the money.  The defendants made more than 100 illegal wire transfers totaling over $1.1 million to Li’s Hong Kong accounts to facilitate their criminal activity.

The case, investigated by the HSI Newark Seaport Investigations Group with assistance from EUROPOL and Italian authorities, is part of a larger effort led by the IPR Center to crack down on the illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit goods that threaten our national security.

Founded in 2000, the IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.