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Chinese national gets prison time for smuggling fake Apple products into the US

A worldwide investigation found he helped smuggle and traffic 40,000 fake Apple products from China into the US.

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A Chinese national trafficked fake iPhones into the US.

Angela Lang/CNET

A Chinese national living in the US has been sentenced to 37 months in prison for taking part in a scheme to import counterfeit Apple products, the Department of Justice has announced. The products, which included fake iPhones and iPads, were smuggled from China into the US. After serving time, Jianhua "Jeff" Li, 44, will also get one year of supervised release, the DOJ said Tuesday.

More than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories, as well as fake labels and packaging with Apple trademarks, were trafficked and smuggled into the US between July 2009 and February 2014.

The fake labels and phony Apple products were shipped separately to avoid detection by customs, the DOJ said.

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"The devices were then shipped to conspirators all over the United States," the Justice Department said. "Proceeds were funneled back to conspirator accounts in Florida and New Jersey via structured cash deposits and then a portion was transferred to conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the funds.

More than $1.1 million in sales proceeds were wired from US accounts into accounts that Li controlled overseas, the agency said.

Li, who was living in the US on a student visa, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey District Court to one count of conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods and labels and to smuggle goods into the US, as well as one count of trafficking counterfeit goods. He was sentenced by Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court Tuesday.

Li and his company Dream Digitals had worked with Andreina Becerra, Roberto Volpe, Rosario LaMarca and others on the scheme. Becerra, sentenced in October 2018, got three years' probation; Volpe got 22 months in prison, and was also sentenced at that time; and LaMarca got 37 months in prison after being sentenced back in July 2017. 

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Financial Crimes Unit worked on the case alongside the HSI Newark Seaport Investigations Group, HSI Attaché Rome, Europol and Italy's Guardia di Finanza.

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