Three individuals pleaded guilty today for their roles in a scheme to smuggle into the United States counterfeit electronic devices, including those purporting to be genuine Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods, from China for sale in the United States.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of the District of New Jersey, Special Agent in Charge Terence Opiola of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark and Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal made the announcement.
Andreina Becerra, 31, a U.S. citizen, Roberto Volpe, 34, an Italian national, and Rosario La Marca, 54, an Italian national and resident of Naples, Italy, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty of the District of New Jersey to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and labels, to smuggle goods into the United States, and to structure financial transactions, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods. Becerra and Volpe will be sentenced on Sept. 7. La Marca will be sentenced on June 14.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from July 2009 through February 2014, the defendants conspired to smuggle and traffic into the United States from China more than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories, including digital cameras, iPads, iPhones, and iPods, along with labels and packaging bearing counterfeit Apple and Sony trademarks. Defendants also wired or transferred more than 100 monetary instruments and funds totaling over $1.1 million in sales proceeds from U.S. accounts into accounts in China.
Further, the documents filed in this case and statements made in court showed that defendants shipped devices separately from the labels bearing counterfeit trademarks for later assembly to avoid detection by U.S. Customs officials. The devices were then shipped 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 and a portion of the proceeds was then transferred to conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the funds.
Jianhua Li, also known as “Jeff Li,” a Chinese national currently residing in California, was charged as a co-defendant in an indictment filed on April 17, 2015, but 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 HSI Newark Seaport Investigations Group and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Financial Crimes Unit investigated the case with significant assistance from Europol and Italy’s Guardia di Finanza.
Senior Counsel Sarah Chang of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leslie Schwartz and Sarah Devlin of the District of New Jersey are prosecuting the case.