Fremont Man Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison And Ordered To Forfeit $1.7 Million For Smuggling Illegal High-Intensity Discharge Headlights
OAKLAND – Chu-Chiang Ho, a/k/a Kevin Ho was sentenced today in United States District Court to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.7 million for illegally importing automobile headlights for years that he knew failed to meet U.S. safety standards, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Homeland Security Investigations NorCal Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, and Customs and Border Protection San Francisco Director of Field Operations Richard F. Di Nucci. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, United States District Judge.
Ho, 44, of Fremont, admitted he was aware that the headlights and headlight kit parts he imported from China violated U.S. safety laws because they emit a much brighter light than conventional headlights and create a public safety hazard. In his plea agreement, Ho admitted that in October 2005 he reported to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that the High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights he imported from China were too bright and did not meet regulatory photometric requirements. Ho also claimed he discontinued the sale of all illegal headlights. Instead, for the next 13 years he smuggled these illegal parts into the United States and sold them through websites he controlled, including HIDExtra.com, kalex.us, and opt7.com.
Ho also admitted in his plea agreement that he acted to conceal his scheme. He worked with suppliers to mischaracterize the merchandise he imported in documents provided to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deceive that agency into believing the merchandise was legal. Ho also changed company names numerous times to avoid detection and listed a variety of family members as corporate officers of his companies despite maintaining his control over the business at all times.
Ho admitted that he profited from his scheme and used the proceeds of the illegal HID Kits to assist in his purchase of various properties in the Bay Area. He admitted that at least $1.7 million in proceeds from his sales is traceable to products he illegally smuggled into the United States.
A federal grand jury indicted Ho on March 14, 2019, charging him with seven counts of smuggling illegal headlights into United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545. Under the plea agreement, Ho pleaded guilty to one count and the United States dismissed the remaining charges.
In addition to sentencing Ho to a prison term of 18 months and to forfeit $1.7 million, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar also sentenced Ho to a three year period of supervised release to follow his prison term. The defendant remains out of custody on bond and was ordered to surrender to begin his sentence on April 27, 2021.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas R. Green and Chris Kaltsas are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Noble Hughes and Kay Konopaske. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection, with the assistance of the Customs and Border Protection Office of Assistant Chief Counsel, San Francisco, and counsel for the U.S. Trade Fraud Task Force.