Customs Broker Gets|Three Years in Slammer

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – The former president of the San Diego Customs Brokers Association was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison for evading taxes on $100 million in imported goods.
     Gerardo Chavez fraudulently imported Chinese-made clothing, cigarettes from India and salmonella-infected produce, among other things, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     Chavez, 42, of Spring Valley, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and his business, International Trade Consultants, to five years probation.
     U.S. District Judge Michael Anello “also ordered Chavez to appear for a future restitution hearing, at which Chavez could be ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation to state and federal taxing authorities,” the U.S. attorney said in a statement.
     Chavez was arrested after a four-month wiretap investigation. He and his cohorts mislabeled the imported goods as in transit to Mexico to duck Customs duties. After ducking the import duties, the U.S. attorney said, “Chavez and his conspirators would hire truck drivers to haul the shipments to warehouses throughout Southern California. Chavez and his conspirators then generated fraudulent paperwork to cover up the scheme. As the conspirators had now effectively imported the goods tax-free, they could in turn sell more merchandise at cheaper prices, and reap greater profits, than their law-abiding competitors, including domestic American manufacturers of the same goods.”
     Chavez helped his clients evade more than $18 million in Customs duties, prosecutors said. A co-conspirator, Sunil Marwani, and his Los Angeles-based company, M Trade, were convicted in June by a federal jury. Chavez helped Mirwani fraudulently import $30 million of Chinese textiles, prosecutors said.
     The U.S. attorney added: “During that trial, some of Chavez’s former coconspirators testified under oath about Chavez’s fraudulent methods, noting that one of his contractors had access to equipment capable of forging certain official marks used by United States Customs and Border Protection.”

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