NEWARK, N.J. – An Italian national who smuggled counterfeit electronics, including Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods, from China for sale in the United States was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison.
The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Rosario La Marca, 54, a resident of Naples, Italy, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to count one of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, to smuggle goods into the United States, and to structure financial transactions, and count two, charging him with trafficking in counterfeit goods.
La Marca, Andreina Becerra, 32, a Venezuelan national, Roberto Volpe, 35, an Italian national, and Jianhua Li, 42, a Chinese national currently residing in California, were originally charged in an eight-count indictment in April 2015 with 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.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From July 2009 through February 2014, the defendants conspired to smuggle into the United States from China more than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories. The estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for an equivalent number of genuine items would have exceeded $15 million.
The devices were shipped separately from the labels bearing counterfeit trademarks in order to avoid detection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The devices were then labeled and packaged after they passed through customs.
The defendants then re-shipped the devices to conspirators all over the United States. Proceeds from the sales of the devices were funneled back to the defendants’ accounts in Florida and New Jersey via structured cash deposits, broken into multiple deposits of less than $10,000 each to avoid bank reporting requirements, and a portion of the proceeds was then transferred to conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the funds.
The defendants made more than 100 illegal wire transfers totaling more than $1.1 million to Hong Kong to facilitate their criminal activity.
In addition to the prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced La Marca to one year of supervised release.
Volpe and Becerra have both pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and await sentencing. Li has pleaded not guilty. The charges contained in the indictment against him are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was jointly investigated by the HSI Newark Seaport Investigations Group and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit, with significant assistance from Europol and Italy’s Guardia di Finanza.