Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
June 29, 2012: Chinese National Indicted for Allegedly Smuggling Counterfeit Tobacco Products into the U.S.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A federal grand jury in Providence, R.I., on Wednesday returned a two-count indictment charging a Chinese national with selling and importing counterfeit tobacco products into the United States from China, earmarked for Rhode Island. Lin Xiao Wei, 31, has been detained since his arrest in Miami on June 4, 2012, by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) Task Force from Rhode Island.
The arrest and indictment of Wei was announced by Peter F. Neronha, United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island; Mark Dragonetti, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA-OCI; and Guy N. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Boston Field Office.
According to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint and arrest warrant filed with the U.S. District Court in Providence, in February 2012, FDA-OCI task force agents in Rhode Island coordinated with agents from ATF to investigate the alleged importation of counterfeit cigarettes, prescription drugs and other items by Wei.
According to the affidavit, with the assistance of a confidential informant who had previously communicated and met with Wei on several occasions, federal agents arranged for the purchase and shipment from China to the United States of a 20-foot cargo container containing 17 pallets of alleged counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes, worth in excess of one million dollars. The container, which shipping documentation claimed contained 696 cartons of leather products, was shipped from a port in China on March 27, 2012.
Between the time Wei allegedly agreed to ship the alleged fraudulent tobacco products to the U.S., and the arrival of the cargo container through a port in Miami on April 27, 2012, several wire transactions were sent to Wei for the cost of the product and associated shipping fees. Upon arrival in Miami, FDA-OCI and Homeland Security Investigations agents seized the container.
According to the affidavit, U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) database records indicated that Wei entered the United States through New York on May 28, 2012. On June 3, 2012, Wei met with the confidential informant and an undercover FDA-OCI Task Force agent from Rhode Island at a Miami hotel. Wei allegedly discussed the shipment of the alleged fraudulent tobacco products shipped from China to Miami, as well as previous shipments of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, such as Viagra, and the availability of other fraudulent products.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha thanked Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the District of Southern Florida, and his staff, for their assistance in this matter.
U.S. Attorney Neronha commended FDA-OCI Rhode Island Task Force members from the FDA-OCI, Rhode Island State Police, East Providence Police and North Providence Police for their efforts in this multi-jurisdictional investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adi Goldstein and Richard B. Myrus.