Brothers exchanged fake iPhones, iPads from China for real ones at US stores, feds say


Co-conspirators involved with the operation travelled to hundreds of Apple Stores in North America and tried to exchange thousands of counterfeit devices for real ones. — Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash

Three brothers from California pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking fake iPhones and iPads, authorities said.

The men, Zhiwei Liao, Zhimin Liao and Zhiting Liao, agreed to “forfeit their interests in five residences in San Diego, more than US$250,000 (RM1mil) in criminal proceeds, and more than 200 Apple iPhones” that were linked to the conspiracy, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California.

The mens’ wives, Dao La, Mengmeng Zhang and Tam Nguyen also pleaded guilty to being involved with the operation, according to the agency.

According to the release, the Liaos admitted to managing an organisation to traffic fake Apple products from 2011 to around August 2019. They imported counterfeit Apple devices from China and used identification numbers that matched those of real devices that had already been sold to customers in the US and Canada.

Co-conspirators involved with the operation travelled to hundreds of Apple Stores in North America and tried to exchange thousands of counterfeit devices for real ones. They then exported the fraudulently obtained iPhones and iPads to people in other countries for profit, the release said.

Federal officials said the total loss suffered by Apple was around US$6.1mil (RM27mil).

The men were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money internationally, their indictment said.

The men’s wives pleaded guilty to “substantive counts of wire fraud or mail fraud,” the release said. The men and their wives are scheduled to appear in court on Aug 15, according to the release.

“Our office will aggressively prosecute criminals who try to steal intellectual property and attempt to exchange counterfeit products for genuine products,” US Attorney Randy S. Grossman said in the release. “We will continue fighting IP crime and upholding the rule of law.”

Attorneys for the Liaos did not immediately respond to requests for comment from McClatchy News. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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