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AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC at 410-209-4885
November 10, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARYLAND COMPANY AND FAMILY MEMBERS PLEAD GUILTY IN IMPORTATION CONSPIRACY OF COUNTERFEIT NASCAR AND LORD OF THE RINGS MERCHANDISE AND ILLEGAL SWITCHBLADES
Baltimore, Maryland - United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein announces that NFZ Products, Inc. and three members of the Aslam family, Mohammed Aslam, age 57 and his sons Farhan Aslam, age 31 and Zeeshawn Aslam, age 27, all of Ellicott City, Maryland, pleaded guilty to smuggling switchblade knives, knives and boxed knife sets with counterfeit NASCAR and NASCAR related trademarks; and knives and swords violating United Cutlery and Lord of the Rings copyrights. In addition, the defendants agreed to forfeit $759,161.16.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein stated, “Vigorous enforcement of criminal trademark and copyright laws is essential to protect U.S. markets from counterfeit goods.”
In a statement of facts provided to the court as part of the plea agreement, the defendants admitted that they participated in a conspiracy to import and distribute more than $750,000 of prohibited merchandise from approximately October 16, 1995 to March 24, 2005. The defendants imported counterfeit knives and swords from foreign countries, namely Pakistan, Taiwan and China. NFZ also operated under the name Turkey Creek Trading Corporation (“Turkey Creek”). Muhammed Aslam, Zeeshan Aslam, a/k/a “Shawn,” and Farhan Aslam controlled NFZ. The defendants operated three warehouses in the Baltimore metropolitan area and stored merchandise at these warehouses until the merchandise was resold to individuals and companies located in the United States.
In order to further the conspiracy, the defendants asked foreign suppliers to hide contraband to avoid the seizure, payment of duty, and discovery of these imported products by U.S. authorities. The defendants also sent money, via wire transfers, to China and elsewhere, to pay for the switchblade knives, counterfeit knives and swords, and counterfeit NASCAR merchandise.
According to the stipulated facts, when the importation of switchblade knives became difficult, the defendants separately imported switchblade knives and springs used for the conversion of knives into fully automatic switchblade knives. After these items had been imported, the defendants caused NFZ employees to insert the springs and then the defendants resold the newly assembled fully automatic switchblades. The decision to separately import was motivated, in part, by a desire to avoid the seizure and discovery of these imported products by U.S. authorities.
Several state and federal search and seizure warrants executed at various NFZ warehouses from 2001 to 2004 resulted in the seizure of thousands of illegally imported switchblade knives and counterfeit goods. For example, on May 27, 2004, federal agents executed federal search warrants at the NFZ warehouses, and discovered that the defendants possessed (i) more than 20,000 switchblades and knives easily converted into switchblades; (ii) NASCAR-related counterfeit knives and knife sets; and (iii) approximately ten (10) Lord of the Rings counterfeit swords.
On May 27, 2004, in order to conceal their illegal activities, defendants Muhammed Aslam and Farhan Aslam lied to federal agents about NFZ’s use of a warehouse. Thereafter, the defendants made plans to move switchblades and counterfeit knives and swords from an NFZ warehouse to a storage facility, which they rented on May 27, 2004.
The Aslams face a maximum sentence of 5-years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, a period of supervised release of up to 3-years. NFZ faces a maximum sentence of 5-years probation and a $500,000 fine. Additionally, pursuant to the plea agreement, the defendants are all jointly and severally liable for a criminal forfeiture of $759,161.16. Judge Motz has scheduled sentencing for February 28, 2005 at 9:30 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Baltimore County Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office. Mr. Rosenstein also thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry M. Gruber and Joyce K. McDonald, who are prosecuting this case.
This page last modifiedJanuary 30, 2006