Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Trafficking of Counterfeit Apple Goods Into the United States

A Chinese national living in the United States on a student visa recently pleaded guilty for his role as a counterfeit distributor in a scheme to traffic and smuggle counterfeit electronics purporting to be Apple iPhones and iPads, from China into the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito of the District of New Jersey, Deputy Special Agent in Charge Michael S. McCarthy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark and Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo made the announcement.

Jianhua “Jeff” Li, 43, 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 and to smuggle goods into the United States, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods. Li will be sentenced on May 30.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from July 2009 through February 2014, Mr. Li, working through his company Dream Digitals, conspired with Andreina Becerra, Roberto Volpe, Rosario LaMarca, and others to smuggle and traffic into the United States from China more than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories, including iPads and iPhones, along with labels and packaging bearing counterfeit Apple trademarks. Mr. Li also received payments totaling over $1.1 million in sales proceeds from U.S. accounts into his bank accounts. Becerra, Volpe and LaMarca have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. LaMarca was sentenced on July 20, 2017 to 37 months in prison and Becerra and Volpe are awaiting sentencing.

Further, the documents filed in this case and statements made in court showed that Mr. Li shipped devices separately from the labels bearing counterfeit trademarks for later assembly to avoid detection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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 co-conspirators’ 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.

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 Trial Attorney Kebharu Smith of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Schwartz of the District of New Jersey are prosecuting the case.