9 charged with smuggling millions in fake luxury items

March 20, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

Nine people were indicted this week on federal charges that they smuggled millions of dollars' worth of counterfeit goods - including fake Nike sneakers, Coach handbags and even Viagra - into the country through the port of Baltimore.

A sister investigation in London led to six arrests and the seizure of 50,000 phony items, the largest bust of its kind in England.

"This was not a mom-and-pop organization; this was organized crime on a grand scale," John Morton, assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Friday during a news conference to announce the indictment.

"Millions were made by crooks," Morton said. "Millions were lost by legitimate U.S. companies."

According to a 72-count indictment, 33 containers loaded with faux goods came through Baltimore from May 2008 through December 2009. They held 130,000 pairs of fake Nikes, 475,000 bogus Coach bags, 500 fake Cartier watches and 10,000 pairs of phony Gucci and Coach shoes.

Charged in the indictment are Wai Hong Yong and Eng Cheng Kee of Malaysia; Hexing Yang, Chan Hong Xu, Lidan Zhang and Kai T. Jaing of China; and Josephine O. Zhou, Kin Yip Ng and Yenn-Kun Hsieh, all of New York state.

All defendants are between the ages of 25 and 45. They face decades in prison if convicted on all counts and sentenced consecutively. In addition, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein is asking for the forfeiture of all alleged counterfeit goods as well as millions of dollars in fines.

ICE agents worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as Baltimore and London police to crack the case, which was brought in Baltimore's U.S. District Court.

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