Trade Group Chief|Accused of Customs Fraud

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – The president of the San Diego Customs Brokers Association is among eight people and three businesses accused of running a $100 million Customs fraud ring through the Port of Long Beach, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     Association president Gerardo Chavez, a licensed Customs broker, is accused of using his employees and his companies, including defendants Tecate Logistics and International Trade Consultants, to create fraudulent Customs paperwork for the scheme.
     The defendants are accused of importing more than $100 million worth of goods, much of it Chinese-made clothes and Indian cigarettes, by falsely claiming the goods would not enter U.S. commerce, but merely pass through to be sold in other countries.
     The goods, including more than 90 shipments of Chinese-made clothing, entered the United States in ocean containers, prosecutors said in a statement announcing the indictment.
     By falsely claiming that the items entered the country only for transshipment, the defendants ducked more than $10 million in taxes and Customs duties, and were able to undersell competitors, prosecutors said.
     Some of the illegally imported products were contaminated with salmonella, or were mislabeled snack food adulterated with a prohibited due, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     Chavez, 42, of Spring Valley, is lead defendant in the 56-count indictment, with separate charges for each of multiple shipments of Chinese clothing, Indian tobacco and Mexican snack food. There is one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, three counts of bringing in goods by means of false statements, and 52 counts of obstruction of justice.
     Here are the other defendants: Joel Varela Gonzalez, 32, of Tijuana; Carlos Medina, 34, of Chula Vista; Enrique Perez Soltero, 39, residence unknown; Sunil Mirwani, 36, of Los Angeles; Rene Trahin, 32, of San Diego; Elizabeth Sandoval, 50, of San Diego; Juan Porter, 58, of Tijuana; International Trade Consultants LLC, of Tecate, Calif.; Tecate Logistics LLC, of Tecate; and M Trade Inc., of Los Angeles.

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