Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Rhode Island
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Wholesaler Admits to Conspiracy to Manufacture and Sell Counterfeit Goods to the U.S. Military & Government
PROVIDENCE – A Brooklyn, N.Y., clothing and goods wholesaler pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence today to charges related to his participation in a conspiracy that sold more than twenty million dollars worth of Chinese-made counterfeit goods to the United States military, government purchasers, and companies that supply the U.S. Government.
Among the items that Ramin Kohanbash, 49, and others arranged to counterfeit were 200 military parkas of a type used by U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Afghanistan. These parkas were falsely represented to be genuine Multicam®, a fabric which incorporates specialized near-infrared management technology designed to make the wearer more difficult to detect with equipment such as night-vision goggles.
Other items carried labels that made explicit, and false, representations about the product’s safety. In one case, labels on counterfeit hoods intended for military and law enforcement personnel stated that the items were “permanently flame resistant,” and that they met a specific industry standard for flame-resistant attire. In reality, the counterfeit hoods were not flame resistant.
“Our men and women in uniform confront danger every day to defend this nation and its values.” said U.S. Attorney Weisman. “The uniforms they wear and the gear they carry are meant to protect them as they carry out their mission, not to put them in harm’s way. This case should serve notice that suppliers who do business with the military must comply with the law, or they will be held to account.”
"Individuals and companies that sell counterfeit goods to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) endanger the safety and effectiveness of our military," stated Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's (DCIS) Northeast Field Office. "Today’s guilty plea is the direct result of a joint investigative effort with the General Services Administration OIG, Army CID, Air Force OSI and Homeland Security Investigations, and demonstrate DCIS' ongoing commitment to work with its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office to protect the integrity of the DoD's procurement process."
Kohanbash admitted to the Court that he and others provided, reviewed, and approved photographs, descriptions, and samples of tags and labels to be attached to the knockoff products, so that the counterfeit versions appeared legitimate. Trademarks and brand names of actual U.S.-made products were added to the foreign counterfeit versions to make them appear legitimate.
The goods were shipped from China to Kohanbash and sold to other wholesalers who ultimately marketed and sold the knock-off products to military and government buyers as genuine, American-made products.
Under two U.S. laws known as The Berry Amendment and the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”), goods sold to the military and certain other government buyers are required to be manufactured in the United States and certain other designated countries; China is not one of those countries. In order to sell the counterfeit goods, Kohanbash provided wholesalers who did business with the government with false certification letters claiming that the goods were made in the U.S., and therefore complied with the Berry Amendment. In other instances, Kohanbash falsely represented that the goods met TAA requirements.
Kohanbash further admitted that the Government is entitled to forfeit twenty million dollars representing proceeds of the offenses, along with actual counterfeit goods seized during the investigation.
Kohanbash’s guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman; Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent-in-Charge of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Luis A. Hernandez, General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, New England Regional Investigations Office; Resident Agent in Charge Michael D. Conner, Boston Fraud Resident Agency, US Army Criminal Investigation Command; Jason T. Hein, Special Agent in Charge, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Office of Procurement Fraud Investigation, Detachment; Homeland Security Investigations Newark, NJ, Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael, Troy Miller, Director of Custom and Border Protection, New York Field Office.
Kohanbash is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court on Chief Judge William E. Smith on January 17, 2020.
Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 5 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000; Trafficking in counterfeit goods is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert and Zachary A. Cunha.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice press release.