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Press Release

Husband and Wife Sentenced for Roles in Conspiracy to Import and Traffic Counterfeit Electronic Products

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A husband and wife were sentenced today for their roles in a scheme to smuggle counterfeit electronics, including Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods, from China for sale in the United States, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Roberto Volpe, 36, an Italian national, was sentenced to 22 months in prison, and his wife, Andreina Becerra, 33, a Venezuelan national, was sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of house arrest. A third co-defendant, Rosario La Marca, 55, an Italian national and resident of Naples, Italy, was sentenced July 21, 2017, to 37 months in prison.

The three defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty to Count One of an indictment, charging conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, to smuggle goods into the United States, and to structure financial transactions, and Count Two, charging trafficking in counterfeit goods. Judge McNulty imposed the sentences on Volpe and Becerra today in Newark federal court.

The three defendants were originally charged in an eight-count indictment returned in April 2015 with importing and trafficking fake iPhones, iPads and iPods bearing counterfeit Apple trademarks, and fake camcorders bearing counterfeit Sony trademarks, as well as smuggling, structuring and international money laundering.  

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From July 2009 through February 2014, the defendants conspired to smuggle into the United States from China more than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories. The estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for an equivalent number of genuine items would have exceeded $15 million. The devices were shipped separately from the labels bearing counterfeit trademarks in order to avoid detection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The devices were then labeled and packaged after they passed through customs.

The defendants then re-shipped the devices to conspirators all over the United States. Proceeds from the sales of the devices were funneled back to the defendants’ accounts in Florida and New Jersey via structured cash deposits – broken into multiple deposits of less than $10,000 each to avoid bank reporting requirements – and a portion of the proceeds was then transferred to conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the funds.

The defendants made more than 100 illegal wire transfers totaling more than $1.1 million to Hong Kong to facilitate their criminal activity.  

In addition to the prison terms, Judge McNulty sentenced the defendants to Volpe to two years of supervised release and fined him $25,000. Becerra was fined $20,000. As part of their plea agreements, Volpe and Becerra agreed to forfeit their interest in 10 bank accounts, three Florida condominiums, and approximately $167,000 in cash.

Jianhua Li, a Chinese national currently residing in California, pleaded guilty in Feb. 2, 2018, and is awaiting sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark Seaport Investigations Group, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael; and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencings. He also thanked Europol and Italy’s Guardia di Finanza for their assistance.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Leslie Schwartz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the District of New Jersey, and Trial Attorney Kebharu Smith of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.


Updated October 16, 2018

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 18-354