Mason County Contract Mail Carrier pleads guilty to vehicle smuggling scheme
Also admits possessing child pornography discovered in smuggling investigation
Tacoma – A 48– year-old Mason County, Washington resident pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to three federal felonies related to a smuggling scheme and possession of child pornography, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Christopher M. Cox pleaded guilty to: smuggling goods into the U.S.; making false statements related to the Clean Air Act; and possession of child pornography. Cox will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan on December 10, 2021.
According to the plea agreement, between approximately 2015 and January 2019, Cox falsified the required paperwork on two dozen vehicles he imported from overseas. Many of the vehicles were extremely light vehicles imported from Japan that did not meet U.S. safety standards. Cox sold some of the vehicles to contract mail carriers he knew from his job. Cox falsified the forms that claimed the vehicles met both safety standards and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Act standards. Cox used his identification as a contract mail carrier to circumvent inspections at the Port of Tacoma and took the vehicles from the Port without proper inspections. The total value of the imported vehicles exceeds $55,000. Those who bought the vehicles were not told that they failed to meet federal safety and pollution standards.
When law enforcement officers served search warrants on Cox’s electronic accounts, they observed images of child pornography. Some of the images are known series of images of child rape and abuse manufactured outside the State of Washington. When officers executed search warrants on Cox’s residence and obtained his electronic devices, they located 142 images and 2 videos of child molestation, rape and abuse.
Smuggling of goods into the U.S. and possession of child pornography are both punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Making false statements related to the Clean Air Act is punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend no more than 63 months in prison. Judge Bryan will determine the appropriate sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with critical assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson.