Federal agents arrested 12 Queens residents on Thursday connected to a major smuggling ring that illegally imported millions of dollars in counterfeit luxury goods from China.
According to federal prosecutors, the ring worked to bring in fake merchandise — including knockoff Louis Vuitton handbags, Michael Kors wallets and Chanel perfume — across the Pacific through ports on the East and West Coasts. They then arranged for the goods to be trucked to self-storage facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, where the items were offloaded and stored for later sale.
To cover their tracks, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said, the collaborators — including 10 additional New York residents — falsified customs paperwork and used burner phone numbers or email accounts to conceal their true identities.
“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,” 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.”
Of the 22 total defendants named in six indictments and one criminal complaint, four of them — including Queens’ Yu Ming Wong — acted as shipping container importers. Prosecutors said that the importers fraudulently used the names, addresses and other information of legitimate importers to obtain the necessary paperwork to bring in trailers of counterfeit goods. They also allegedly falsified the descriptions of the containers’ contents in order to keep the cargo coming in.
Federal agents said that Wong and the other three importers allegedly smuggled or attempted to smuggle 23 shipping containers of counterfeit items — each 40 feet in length — into the U.S. Authorities estimated that the goods had a street value, where they genuine articles, would have been worth in excess of $450 million.
Fifteen other suspects — including Queens residents Xue Wei Qu, Xi Quan Huang, Yun Lei Huang, Yun Wu Huang, Cheng Xu Yu, Jin Hua Zhang, Yong Lin Dong and Cai Ying Lin — allegedly acted as wholesale distributors in the ring. They would sell the imported counterfeit goods to wholesale and retail vendors in New York, California and other parts of the country.
Finally, three Queens residents — Wei Mei Gao, Sheng Miao Xia and Jie Mei Chen — served as domestic shippers, using private shipping companies that they controlled to distribute the smuggled goods. Prosecutors said they also arranged for payments to wholesale goods distributors.
All 22 defendants were variously charged with conspiracy to traffic, trafficking in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to smuggle, smuggling, money laundering, immigration fraud and unlawful procurement of naturalization.