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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