Dozens of people have been charged with aiding a scheme to illegally smuggle millions of dollars worth of counterfeit Chinese-manufactured goods, prosecutors announced on Thursday, including three people from Great Neck.
According to prosecutors, the defendants operated as importers, distributors and shippers of items like fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume, with a value of around half a billion dollars.
“Counterfeit goods manufactured and smuggled from China with a suggested value north of half a billion dollars, were intended to make its way into U.S. markets and into the hands of unsuspecting customers,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said. “This investigation should be a crystal clear message that counterfeiting and intellectual property rights violations is anything but a victimless crime as it harms legitimate businesses, customers and governments.”
The three people from Great Neck – Qiong Chan Mu, 26, and Ren Zong Zhu, 31, and their mother-in-law Xiao Ying Huang, 53 – were among 15 people allegedly involved in the distribution of the illegal goods, prosecutors said, and 33 allegedly involved in total, according to Homeland Securities Investigations agents.
Among those responsibilities were managing “the receipt, storage and distribution of counterfeit goods” and reselling them to other retailers in New York, California, and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
According to the federal indictment filed by prosecutors, the trio operated Ren-Friendly Trading, Inc., a wholesale handbag and accessories business, based in Queens and 6th Ave Hangbag, Inc, in New York, New York that sold counterfeit goods between June 2014 and June 2015.
Also, according to the indictment, the defendants and co-conspirators discussed how to create generic goods, add counterfeit labels so they would not be damaged, met with counterfeit label manufacturers and then affixed said labels to the goods and sold them through their companies.
The trio faces charges of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to smuggle goods, trafficking in counterfeit goods and immigration fraud.
The immigration fraud charge is specifically linked to Chan Mu, who prosecutors say lied about never committing a crime in which she wasn’t arrested when pursuing naturalization.
Authorities at a press conference in New York on Thursday said it had seized enough knockoffs from those involved to fill “the length of three football stadiums.”
Prosecutors also said those counterfeit goods entered ports on the East and West coasts via 40-foot shipping containers, disguising them as legal imports from legitimate companies.
“As alleged, the defendants used many forms of deception to smuggle large quantities of counterfeit luxury brand goods from China into the United States, and then profited by distributing and selling the fake merchandise,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Donoghue said. “This Office, working with our law enforcement partners, is committed to securing our country’s ports of entry, as well as to protecting the integrity of intellectual property upon which free and fair international trade and markets depend.”