LOS ANGELES – A Paramount-based clothing wholesaler has agreed to plead guilty to undervaluing imported garments to avoid paying nearly $6.4 million in tariffs and doing business with a woman in Mexico with ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel, the Justice Department announced today.
Ghacham Inc., which does business under the “Platini” brand name, faces two counts of conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent paperwork through a customs office and conspiracy to engage in transactions or trafficking in properties of a specially designated narcotic trafficker under a law , known as the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Also charged today is Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, 38, of Bell, an executive at Ghacham Inc., who faces charges of conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent paperwork through a customs office. Both defendants also signed settlement agreements filed in US District Court today and are scheduled to appear in court for the first time on November 18.
According to court documents, Ghacham Inc. imported clothing from China and submitted fraudulent invoices to the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which undervalued the shipments, thereby allowing it to default on paying the full amount of duties owed on the imports avoid.
At Mohamed Ghacham’s direction, the Chinese suppliers issued two invoices for the clothes ordered by Ghacham Inc. – a real invoice reflecting the price actually paid for the goods and a fraudulent “customs invoice” reflecting an underprice. Ghacham Inc. submitted the customs invoices to CBP and customs brokers in order to fraudulently reduce the duties owed on imports while keeping the true invoices on its accounting records.
Ghacham Inc. and Mohamed Ghacham admitted that between July 2011 and February 2021 they undervalued imported garments by more than $32 million and failed to pay approximately $6,390,792 in tariffs.
Ghacham Inc. also conducted illegal business dealings with Maria Tiburcia Cazarez Perez in violation of the Kingpin Act, which prohibits individuals and companies in the United States from doing business with her. Cazarez Perez was previously designated as a “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers” under the Kingpin Act for their involvement in the financial network of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and Victor Emilio Cazares Salazar, two leaders of the Mexico-based Sinaloa cartel. Cazares Salazar was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking activities in federal cases in San Diego and New York City.
For entering guilty pleas, Ghacham Inc. faces a maximum statutory fine of $10.5 million and a five-year probation period – during which time it must implement an effective anti-money laundering compliance and ethics program with an external compliance monitor. and Mohamed Ghacham face up to five years in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations and CBP were investigating the matter. Significant assistance was provided by the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the IRS Criminal Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander B. Schwab of the Major Frauds Section and Diana L. Pauli of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section are prosecuting the case.
This case is part of an operation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-gathering, multi-agency approach. For more information about the OCDETF program, visit https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.