Passaic County Man Admits Role In Long-Running, International Counterfeit Goods Trafficking Scheme
Forfeits $200,000 in Ill-Gotten Gains to the United States
NEWARK, NJ – A Passaic County, N.J., man today admitted participating in a multi-year, international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Aref Abuhadba, 49, of Totowa, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh to an Information charging him with one count of conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods. As part of his guilty plea, Abuhadba presented the government with a check for $200,000 today, representing his ill-gotten gains from his involvement in the conspiracy.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2003 through 2010, Abuhadba and others conspired to import counterfeit Nike sneakers and counterfeit Walt Disney-brand comforters and blankets from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for resale in the United States. Abuhadba worked in concert with a conspirator in the PRC, who acted as a middleman between the manufacturers of counterfeit goods in the PRC and Abuhadba in the United States. The conspirator purchased counterfeit goods from manufacturers in the PRC and arranged for them to be shipped various ports of entry within the United States. Once the containers arrived, other conspirators arranged for them to be delivered to warehouses and other locations throughout the United States controlled by Abuhadba, who would then distribute the counterfeit goods to customers throughout the United States.
Abuhadba was also responsible for collecting money from customers and wiring the proceeds of the scheme to the conspirators. For his participation, Abuhadba received a fee of up to $42,000 for each container that was successfully imported into the United States. If a container was seized by law enforcement, however, Abuhadba was sometimes responsible for a portion of the costs of the goods in the seized container.
According to e-mails reviewed by law enforcement during the investigation, in late 2008, a number of containers with contents valued in the millions of dollars were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). On Sept. 17, 2008, CBP agents inspected a container at Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport in Long Beach, Calif., destined for Abuhadba in New Jersey. There were more than 10,000 pairs of counterfeit Nike Air Force One sneakers, bearing various Nike trademarks in the container. The approximate cost of the goods seized was approximately $200,000, and their approximate retail value was $1.5 million. Following the 2008 seizures, Abuhadba exchanged numerous e-mails with the PRC conspirator discussing the seizures and encouraged the PRC conspirator to send false letters to the CBP concerning the seizures, stating that the seized containers were delivered by mistake and were not intended for Abuhadba.
The count to which the defendant pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross amount of any pecuniary gain derived from the offense, or pecuniary loss sustained by any victims of the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9, 2013.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gurbir S. Grewal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Edward Bilinkas and Sara Sencer McCardle Esqs., Randolph, N.J.