On April 16, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested a 44-year-old man in California for overseeing a scheme to smuggle $72 million in counterfeit Apple and Samsung cellphone components from China.
Chan Hung Le owns Irvine, Calif.-based EZ Elektronix, which he used as part of an elaborate plot to import counterfeit screens and other components while skirting law enforcement.
The fraud started in June 2010 when Le and his co-conspirators, including relatives and EZ Elektronix employees, used various methods to evade authorities.
For example, Le used multiple business names and addresses, as well as “virtual offices” and post office boxes, in at least three U.S. states.
The company certainly has a nefarious past. In October 2011 and February 2012, EZ Elektronix’s office was raided and authorities seized about 7,200 counterfeit iPhone parts and 11,700 other counterfeit cellphone parts worth more than $1.7 million.
After the raid, Le switched up his scam and had the counterfeit goods sent to two fake companies in Texas and Oklahoma. After the parts arrived, they were shipped to southern California under the name "Pac-Depot Inc.,” while legitimate merchandise was shipped directly to EZ Elektronix. This allowed the parts to be inspected at different U.S. ports and did not appear to be associated with Le or his company.
In 2016, Hongwei “Nick” Du, pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic counterfeit goods and money laundering. Du was one of Le's suppliers, and admitted to selling him at least $18.7 million worth of components. He said that at least half the parts were counterfeits bearing the trademarks of Apple, Samsung, Nokia and other companies.
From January 2012 to December 2018, EZ Elektronix paid more than $72 million to three companies who helped Le import the fake parts, many of which were found by authorities when he was arrested.
If convicted, Le faces up to 45 years in federal prison.