SAN DIEGO – An Imperial County businessman was sentenced to 41 months in prison Tuesday for his role in leading a years-long international conspiracy to import counterfeit goods from China into the United States.
United States District Court Judge M. James Lorenz sentenced Octavio Cesar Sana, a citizen of Spain, for conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods and laundering money. Sana was also ordered to forfeit $3.2 million and to pay a fine of $10,000. The Court sentenced Sana based on his leadership role in an international conspiracy which included, among others, his primary Chinese supplier, Hongwei “Nick” Du, and Angela Vela, Sana’s lieutenant. Du will be sentenced on August 15, 2016. Vela has already been convicted and sentenced.
According to information presented at sentencing, Sana’s business, “Flexqueen.com,” sold at least $3.2 million of counterfeit cell phone components over the last eight years. Sana obtained his fake products from Chinese suppliers and sold them to individual consumers, other downstream businesses through the internet, and from a storefront repair business in downtown San Diego. Over their many year-long scheme, Sana and his co-conspirators employed extensive methods to frustrate the ability of customs officials to detect, inspect, and intercept their counterfeit goods, both in the U.S. and in China.
Sana was arrested February 3, 2015, at the Imperial Valley Airport when he arrived to meet with Du to coordinate further counterfeit trafficking ventures. The day of his arrest, agents executed a search warrant at the home Sana was renting and discovered thousands of additional counterfeit parts.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service spearheaded the investigation leading to Du and Sana’s arrests. Reflecting the wide reach of Sana’s enterprise, HSI executed a series of searches across the nation in connection with the arrests, including: Tampa, Brownsville, Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Nashville, and, in California: Orange, San Diego, and Imperial counties.
These searches resulted in the seizure of more than 55,000 counterfeit items. Multiple individuals have been arrested and charged, in addition to the three charged in the Southern District of California. In Boston, two businessmen who operated a storefront that sold counterfeit merchandise imported by Sana and Du have been convicted of felonies and sentenced in federal court for their involvement. Two others were convicted in state courts in Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
“Trafficking in counterfeit goods undermines import controls and harms consumers, businesses, and the marketplace,” said U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy. “Counterfeit goods peddlers are on notice that they cannot smuggle their goods into the country with impunity.”
U.S. Attorney Duffy observed that the international supply of counterfeit goods is thriving; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that in 2014 alone, it conducted more than 23,000 seizures of counterfeit goods, valued at approximately $1.2 billion.
Ms. Duffy commended the close coordination between the investigating agencies during the lengthy investigation of this case. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs also provided invaluable assistance.
“This investigation underscores HSI’s commitment to pursuing transnational criminals seeking to exploit the U.S. economy,” said Dave Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for ICE HSI in San Diego. “I commend the work by HSI and our federal law enforcement partners for their outstanding efforts that uncovered a counterfeit scheme which threatened the U.S. marketplace and defrauded consumers.”
“The importation and sale of counterfeit goods by Mr. Sana, resulting in his conviction in this conspiracy, hurt the consumer by providing them with inferior, sub-standard products,” observed Anthony Orlando, acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s sentence is evidence that IRS-Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to identify, investigate, and bring to justice those who defraud the consumer for their own personal financial gain.”