Clothing Wholesaler Agrees to Plead Guilty to Violating U.S. Drug Trafficking Sanctions and Committing $6.4 Million Customs Fraud
LOS ANGELES – A Paramount-based clothing wholesale company has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for undervaluing imported garments in a scheme to avoid paying almost $6.4 million in customs duties and for doing business with a woman in Mexico who has ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel, the Justice Department announced today.
Ghacham Inc., which does business under the “Platini” brand name, is charged in a two-count information with conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse and conspiracy to engage in any transaction or dealing in properties of a specially designated narcotics trafficker under a statute known as the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Also charged today is Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, 38, of Bell, a Ghacham Inc. executive who is charged with one count of conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse. Both defendants also signed plea agreements filed today in United States District Court and are expected to make their initial court appearances on November 18.
According to court documents, Ghacham Inc. imported clothing from China and submitted fraudulent invoices to United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that undervalued the shipments, allowing it to avoid paying the full amount of tariffs owed on the imports.
At Mohamed Ghacham’s direction, the Chinese suppliers prepared two invoices for the clothing ordered by Ghacham Inc. – a true invoice, which reflected the actual price paid for the goods, and a fraudulent “customs invoice,” which reflected an understated price. Ghacham Inc. submitted the customs invoices to CBP and customs brokers to fraudulently reduce the tariffs owed on the imports, while it maintained the true invoices in its accounting records.
Ghacham Inc. and Mohamed Ghacham admitted that, between July 2011 and February 2021, they undervalued imported garments by more than $32 million and failed to pay customs duties approximately $6,390,792.
Ghacham Inc. also illegally conducted business with Maria Tiburcia Cazarez Perez in violation of the Kingpin Act, which prohibits people and businesses in the United States from doing business with her. Cazarez Perez was previously designated a “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers” under the Kingpin Act for her participation in the financial network of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and Victor Emilio Cazares Salazar, two leaders of the Mexico-based Sinaloa Cartel. Cazares Salazar was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for drug trafficking activities in federal cases out of San Diego and New York City.
Upon entering guilty pleas, Ghacham Inc. will face a statutory maximum penalty of a $10.5 million fine and five years’ probation – during which time it will be required to implement an effective anti-money laundering compliance and ethics program with an outside compliance monitor, and Mohamed Ghacham will face up to five years in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations and CBP investigated this matter. The U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement, Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and IRS Criminal Investigation provided significant assistance.
Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander B. Schwab of the Major Frauds Section and Diana L. Pauli of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section are prosecuting the case.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.