• Alhambra and Arcadia Men Facing Federal Charges

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A loose-knit group of clothing importers face
    federal charges connected with shipments of Chinese-made apparel allegedly
    smuggled into the United States to avoid more than $2 million in import duties,
    customs officials said today.
    Authorities said the scheme, detailed in two indictments handed down in
    Los Angeles federal court last week, involved more than $12 million worth of
    imported denim destined for stores across the nation.
    “Commercial smuggling schemes like this not only rob the government of
    vital revenues, they also penalize businesses that follow the rules and
    undermine our economy,’ said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of U.S.
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles.
    “We will not allow unscrupulous importers who break the law in an
    effort to cut corners and costs to get rich at America’s expense.’
    The indictments, each of which contain multiple smuggling, money
    laundering and wire fraud counts, describe the filing of false documentation
    with U.S. Customs and Border Protection that grossly undervalues the purchase
    price of the imports.
    According to ICE, one of the key figures in the scheme was Wei “Julia’
    Lai, 39, owner of a bonded and licensed company based in the City of Industry
    known as the Industry Free Trade Zone. The indictment contends Lai used a
    series of straw bank accounts to launder proceeds from the illegal activities.
    The remaining eight defendants are:
    — Joel Elder, 29, of Long Beach, an employee of a company called ITC
    Diligence who worked as an on-site consultant for Lai;
    — Jianying “Jonathan’ Huang, 42, a Chinese national who owns and
    operates several China-based export companies;
    — Xiaoqiong “Joan’ Hou, 43, of Diamond Bar, a Chinese national who
    allegedly coordinated illegal shipments;
    — Rebecca Ho, 39, of Alhambra., who allegedly brokered illegal
    shipments for commission;
    — Yuling Wang, 43, of Walnut, who allegedly assisted in brokering
    illegal shipments for commission;
    — Keen “Alven’ Wai Choo, 40, of Roland Heights, the owner of a
    company that allegedly received illegal shipments;
    — Taylor “David’ Wong, 49, of Arcadia, owner of several alleged shell
    import companies; and
    — Tsu “Nick’ Wei Lin, 41, also of Arcadia, who operated a company
    that allegedly received illegal shipments.
    All the defendants were originally charged by criminal complaint and
    seven of them, including Lai, made their initial appearances in federal court
    earlier this month.
    They are free on bond pending further proceedings, according to ICE.
    Huang and Wang remain at large and are being sought, ICE said.
    The defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each of the smuggling
    allegations, according to ICE.

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