Nineteen people, including six Queens residents, have been arrested as a result of a 3-year investigation into rings that allegedly made, imported and sold counterfeit designer clothing, watches and cigarettes.
At a joint press conference on Nov. 20, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and James Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said four trademark-counterfeiting rings operating from self-storage facilities in Queens and Brooklyn imported items from China and sold them in 21 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, generating about $10 million in gross revenue per year.
“Operations such as those allegedly run by the defendants fuel an underground economy,” Brown said. “They are cash businesses that pay no taxes and damage the reputations of reputable brand owners and lower consumer confidence in the name brands by foisting inferior products into the marketplace.”
Seven people and two corporations have been charged in addition to the 19 people who have been arrested thus far.
Twelve of the defendants charged with enterprise corruption face up to 25 years in prison if convicted, while the rest face up to seven years. The corporations face fines of up to $10,000 or twice the amount of any illegal gains.
Queens residents who have been charged include Bobak Ahouraie, 23, of Bellerose, and Suk Yi, 18, of Oakland Gardens, who are charged with enterprise corruption, first- and second-degree trademark counterfeiting and fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy; Samantha DeFreitas, 26, of Woodhaven, on a charge of third-degree trademark infringement; Jan Sanandaji, 37, of Great Neck, charged with second-degree trademark counterfeiting; and Jian Zhong Jian, 43, and Xiu Wei Ye, 43, both of Flushing, who have been charged with second- and third-degree trademark counterfeiting.
The complaint said the four rings purchased either clothing items that bore counterfeit trademarks for companies such as Polo by Ralph Lauren, Nike, Timberland and North Face, or bought so-called blank or unfinished products and affixed phony labels in local factories.
One of the four alleged rings is said to have dealt in counterfeit and untaxed name-brand cigarettes.
Named defendants charged in the complaint include alleged bosses Izak Chaloh and Yosif Mamrout of Brooklyn; Brooklyn residents Gabi Sakkal, 30, Alla Kharma, 33, Daoud Chaloh, 50, Wei Feng Cao, 45, Yu Zhen Cao, 39, Laureano Lopez, 29, Heras Campverde, 43, Che Kang Cheng, 52; and Zhi Wei Liang; and Xiu Yin Jin, 34, of Staten Island.
The statement issued by Brown’s office also named one of the two corporations allegedly involved, saying that Global Express Services, Inc., of 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, acted as a shipper, importer and money agent for one of the alleged rings.
Authorities said the investigation involved surveillance, monitoring of telephones and email accounts as well as undercover buys that led to the issuance of a dozen search warrants.
Brown’s statement said law enforcement seized more than 1,000 boxes of business records and counterfeit merchandise with an estimated street value of $750,000, along with more than $500,000 in cash.
Brown also said that private investigation and security firms working for apparel manufacturers as well as cigarette companies assisted in the investigation.