The president of a San Diego trade group has been charged, along with seven other individuals and three companies, in connection with an alleged scheme to avoid millions of dollars in customs duties on imported products.
Gerardo Chavez, 42, and the president of the San Diego Custom Brokers Association, was taken into custody on July 24, and stands accused of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, entry of goods by false statements, and obstruction of justice. Also implicated in the alleged scheme are Joel Varela Gonzalez, Carlos Medina, Enrique Perez Soltero, Sunil Mirwani, Rene Trahin, Elizabeth Sandoval, Juan Porter and the companies, International Trade Consultants, Tecate Logistics and M Trade Inc.
According to news reports, Chavez and the other defendants purchased foreign goods, imported them to the U.S., and then filled out false paperwork claiming they wouldn't remain in the country, thereby avoiding customs duties. Instead of exporting the goods the defendants allegedly hired truck drivers to move the products to Los Angeles and other U.S. locations. Authorities say their investigation turned up more than 90 commercial shipments of fraudulently imported apparel from China, including cigarettes and other goods
In all, the defendants are suspected of bringing in shipments worth $100 million, and avoiding $10 million in duties and taxes, through forged transportation and entry manifests, and by dodging Food and Drug Administration inspections.
“Every day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials work to protect the U.S. and interdict fraudulent goods from entering the country," David Aguilar, CBP's acting commissioner said in a press release. “Joint efforts such as this are crucial to maintaining our nation’s economic security and competitiveness.”