March 30, 2018: Counterfeit Cigarette Smuggler Sentenced to Prison
Benjamin G. Greenberg. United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Justin D. Green, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA OCI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
Flores previously pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy, which sought to sell and dispense and cause the sale and dispensing of a counterfeit tobacco product, to wit cigarettes, the containers and labeling of which, without authorization, bore the trade names of Marlboro Reds and Newport cigarettes, tobacco products listed with the FDA pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 387(e)(i)(1), in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 331(qq)(3) and 333(a)(2), all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
According to the court record, including a jointly filed factual statement, the investigation began in January 28, 2013, when a FDA/OCI undercover agent met with Flores in Jamaica to discuss the sale of counterfeit Marlboro brand cigarettes. Thereafter, negotiating by email, a deal to sell and ship 1,100 “master cases” of counterfeit Marlboro Reds, for a total cost of $377,300.00 was reached. To pursue the deal, agents made an initial a wire transfer in the amount of $133,190 to an account located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the purchase of the counterfeit cigarettes.
In August 2013, undercover agents met with a previously sentenced co-defendant Gaurav Jayaseelan, who travelled to Miami to discuss the pending sale. During the recorded meeting, Jayaseelan told the agents that he and his father, were in the cigarette and alcohol business and claimed they owned their own tobacco manufacturing plant which could manufacture any tobacco brand. Jayaseelan later sent an email offering to provide counterfeit Newport cigarettes within four to five weeks. Subsequently, at Jayaseelan’s request, two cartons of Newport cigarettes to be used as samples for the manufacturing of the counterfeits were provided to an address in India.
In January 2014, Jayaseelan emailed that they would send 1,030 master cases of Newport cigarettes for a total wholesale price of $450,625. In May 2014, the shipment was seized at Port Everglades, in coordination with t. The counterfeit cigarettes had an estimated U.S. street value of more than $5.6 million. Throughout the conspiracy, Flores, by internet communications, served as a broker and a facilitator of the sales activity.
Flores was arrested in Peru in early 2017 and extradited to the United States.
Counterfeit cigarettes, which are sold without proper registration and testing may pose a greater health risk than consumers recognize, due to the presence of contaminants either not found in products originating from the lawful manufacturers, or which are present in greater concentrations.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of FDA-OCI and thanked the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Peruvian Ministry of Justice and U.S. Marshals Service for their assistance in this matter. This matter was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.