Five people have been charged in New York for importing, manufacturing, and distributing hundreds of thousands of pairs of fake Nike sneakers that originated in China.
Suen Miyuki, 43; Huang Jianmin, 42; and Chen Kinlui, 52, from New York City; and Qu Songhua, 54, and Qu Fangrang, 31, from Hicksville, New York, were charged in Manhattan federal court for conspiring to traffic counterfeit Nike Air Jordans, according to an Aug. 7 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The five defendants in this case allegedly counterfeited over $70 million in fake Nike shoes and sold them to buyers on the U.S. market,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in the statement.
While the press release didn’t specify the ethnicities or nationalities of those who were charged, their names suggest that they are likely Chinese.
The five defendants imported sneakers that resembled Nike Air Jordans from China. Once these sneakers arrived in New York, the alleged smugglers, along with other co-conspirators, would affix a fake Nike logo to the shoes.
From January 2016 to about July 2018, the five defendants imported more than 380,000 pairs of sneakers in at least 42 shipping containers from China. The sneakers were then stored in multiple storage units and warehouses in New York City and elsewhere.
On Aug. 7, following a court-authorized search at a warehouse, several storage units, and a residence, federal law enforcement agents found thousands of counterfeit sneakers, along with knockoff Nike logos and machinery to affix them. The five defendants were subsequently arrested.
Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The investigation was carried out by the Homeland Security Investigations division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE HSI) and the New York Police Department, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“These five individuals are alleged to have been a part of a large-scale counterfeiting scheme,” said ICE HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez in the press release. “These counterfeiting networks can be both detrimental to our economy and threaten our national security.”
Most of the world’s counterfeit goods are made in China. According to a 2017 report on intellectual property rights (IPR) seizure by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there were 34,143 IPR seizures in the United States in 2017, of which 46 percent originated from China and 32 percent originated from Hong Kong.
If authentic, the goods seized from China and Hong Kong would have a retail price of about $940 million, according to the report.
Of the 34,143 seizures, clothing apparel and accessories were the most common categories of items with 5,223 seizures or 15 percent of the total, followed by watches and jewelry with 4,297 seizures (13 percent), and footwear with 4,224 (12 percent).
In May, U.S. customs agents in Laredo, Texas, seized $16 million worth of knockoff goods originating from China. Items that were seized included designer clothing, electronic goods, and sports footwear, mimicking brands such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Adidas, Nike, Apple, and Sony.
Two months later, in July, customs agents in Laredo seized 181,615 pieces of trademark-infringing merchandise originating from China, with an estimated market value of more than $42.9 million. Among the seized goods were knockoffs of popular apparel brands such as Adidas, Calvin Klein, Nike, Under Armor, and Diesel.