NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — A member of a massive international counterfeit goods conspiracy was sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role in the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ming Zheng, a/k/a “Uncle Mi,” 48, of New York, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to an information charging him with a conspiracy to launder money. Judge Salas imposed the sentence in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From November 2009 through February 2012, Zheng’s co-defendants ran one of the largest counterfeit goods smuggling and distribution conspiracies ever charged by the Department of Justice. The defendants and others conspired to import hundreds of containers of counterfeit goods — primarily handbags, footwear, and perfume — from China into the United States in furtherance of the conspiracy. These goods, if legitimate, would have had a retail value of more than $300 million.
Zheng was a money launderer who was introduced to undercover special agents (collectively, the UCs) by co-defendants who were running the counterfeiting operation. Conspirators obtained cash from the UCs, purportedly the proceeds of gambling and other unlawful activities. These other conspirators then provided the money to Zheng. For every $50,000 in cash the UCs provided, Zheng and others would return approximately $42,500 — via wire transfers from banks in China — into a bank account set up by the UCs. When other conspirators received money from the UCs to be laundered, one of the conspirators would then contact Zheng, who in turn contacted a Chinese-based conspirator, and transferred the money to locations in China. Then the money (less the laundering fee) was transferred from Fujian, China, to a bank in Guangzho, China, where it was subsequently withdrawn and physically transported via courier to a bank in Hong Kong. The final transfer was from the bank in Hong Kong to the UCs’ bank account. Zheng was therefore instrumental in each of the money laundering transactions — he received the cash from other conspirators and caused it to be transferred overseas in furtherance of the laundering process.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations for the investigation leading to the sentencing.