Dec. 3, 2009
BUSINESSMEN FROM NEW JERSEY AND CALIFORNIA PLEAD GUILTY IN ILLEGAL EXPORT SCHEME
Proceeds of illegal export scheme to be forfeited to the United States
(LAREDO, Texas) – A New Jersey and a California businessman have each been convicted for their role in an illegal export scheme, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and special agent in-charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in San Antonio Jerry Robinette announced today. Vahram Aynilian, 59, of New Jersey, and Fred Lukach, 50, of California, each pleaded guilty this afternoon to one count of illegally exporting goods from the United States into Mexico today at a hearing before United States Magistrate Judge Diana Saldana.
"This investigation showcases the diligent work conducted by ICE and the Mexican Fraud Task Force that uncovered a criminal scheme where individuals were circumventing NAFTA and customs law," said Robinette. "ICE along with the Mexican government will continue to work jointly to avoid the loss of millions of dollars in revenue due to the non-collection of importation fees and taxes."
Aynilian is the President of N.Y. Aynilian & Co. located in New Jersey. Lukach is a businessman from San Diego, Calif., who temporarily worked in Laredo as a freight forwarder. In August 2008, ICE received information and through its investigation confirmed Aynilian was selling fraudulent North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin documents and fraudulent United States invoices. Lukach, who met Aynillian through a mutual acquaintance, purchased and used Aynillian’s fraudulent documents in Laredo and other ports on the United States/Mexican border to claim that foreign textile shipments were manufactured in the United States in order to exploit NAFTA protections. By using these fraudulent documents, Lukach and the ultimate consignees of the foreign textile shipments avoided paying duties to the Mexican government.
From 2005-2009, Aynilian received approximately $199,201 for providing or allowing fraudulent NAFTA Certificate of Origin documents and fraudulent United States invoices to be provided for approximately 243 shipments. As part of his plea agreement, Aynilian agreed to forfeit and will pay to the United States at or before sentencing the $199,201.20 he profited from the scheme. During the same time period, Lukach paid for and obtained fraudulent NAFTA Certificate of Origin documents and fraudulent United States invoices from Aynilian for numerous textile shipments.
Aynilian’s and Lukach’s convictions for the illegal exportation of goods from the U.S. to Mexico were obtained under a new federal law passed by Congress pertaining to the smuggling of goods from the United States, Title 18, United States Code, Section 554. Each count of conviction carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine or both. Both men will be sentenced by Judge George P. Kazen on a date to be set after the submission of a final presentence investigative report.
Both men have been permitted to remain free on bond pending their sentencing hearing.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sam Sheldon.
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