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June 22, 2009

MEXICAN BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR ILLEGAL EXPORT SCHEME

(LAREDO, Texas) – Jesus Argandona, a Mexican businessman, has been sentenced to prison for illegally attempting to export goods to Mexico, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Argandona, 37, to one year in prison. In addition to the prison term, Judge Alvarez fined Argandona $200,000 payable immediately. Argandona, free on bond, was taken into custody after sentencing.

In October 2008, Argandona pleaded guilty to the federal criminal offense alleged in a criminal information. He admitted that in 2007 he paid Jesse Thomas-Doria to illegally export blank compact disks from Laredo into Mexico to avoid detection by Mexican authorities and avoid Mexican import duties. The blank compact disks were manufactured in China and were valued at approximately $600,000. Argandona had unlawfully purchased the compact disks from Princo, a Panama-based company. Princo is not licensed by Philips Electronics to sell their compact disks. Chuck Hausman, a representative from Phillips Electronics, appeared at the sentencing and addressed the court regarding the potential loss to Phillips Electronics.
Argandona was charged under a new federal law passed by Congress pertaining to the smuggling of goods from the United States. That statute, Title 18, USC, Section 554, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine or both.

In separate but related cases, Thomas and Eustolio Rossell, both Laredo businessmen, and Rafael A. Morales, a licensed customs broker, each previously pleaded guilty to illegally attempting to export goods from the United States into Mexico. On Aug. 15, 2008, Thomas was sentenced to six months in prison and three months home confinement. On Nov. 12, 2008, Rossell was sentenced to five months in prison. Morales is currently awaiting sentencing.

The investigation leading to criminal charges against Argandona and the other defendants was conducted by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and initiated on Jan. 12, 2008, when ICE detained two in-bond shipments from China comprised of four trailers that were loaded with compact disks from a warehouse owned by Thomas. Thomas had been hired by Argandona to illegally export the blank compact disks to Mexico after they arrived in Laredo. Thomas hired Morales to fraudulently cancel the in-bond documents contrary to United States customs laws and regulations. Morales then hired Rossell, because he believed Rossell was going to bribe a corrupt United States Customs Border and Protection officer (CBP) to cancel the in-bond documents. Rossell created fraudulent in-bond documents and then forged the name of a CBP officer, thereby making it possible for the blank compact disks to leave the Free Trade Zone and be taken unlawfully to a warehouse owned by Thomas. There never was a corrupt CBP officer involved in this scheme.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sam Sheldon.

 

 

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