Taiwanese Citizen Held in San Francisco on Charges of Bringing in Millions of Counterfeit Footwear and Apparel

A former Taiwanese national living in New York was charged with smuggling and conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods that ranged from high-priced Nike shoes and Ugg boots to True Religion blue jeans after he tried to board an international flight in San Francisco.

Su Ming Ling was arrested Aug. 31 as he was about to board a plane to Taiwan.

“Using a combination of Internet savvy and old-fashioned counterfeit distribution techniques, defendant Ling perpetrated a lucrative counterfeiting scheme involving fake name-brand items,” said Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

According to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, Ling is accused of using aliases, stolen business identities and falsified shipping documents to bring in 200 shipping containers of counterfeit brand-name apparel and footwear from China between May 2013 and January 2017. The retail value of these goods, landed at New Jersey ports, is estimated to be $250 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

For example, in late 2014, inspectors from Customs and Border Protection looked inside a shipping container linked to Ling. The container’s documents alleged it held bottle openers, key chains and picture frames with a dutiable value of a little more than $41,400.

When the inspectors opened the shipping container, they said they found shoes that were marked as Nike “Air Force 1” sneakers. The shipment, which consisted of 29,500 pairs of sneakers, had a retail value of $1.5 million with a dutiable value of $177,865, or four times the dutiable value listed on the customs entry form.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that in his scheme, Ling used fraudulently obtained e-mail addresses to pose as a representative of real businesses and then hired established customs brokers to file customs entry forms on behalf of the stolen business names. Some of these customs brokers were in California and Illinois.

Court papers said Ling gave these customs brokers falsified shipping documents for numerous shipments of counterfeit brand-name apparel that misrepresented the true contents of the shipping containers. Ling arranged for the shipping containers—some containing National Football League–brand athletic jerseys—to be delivered to warehouses and storage facilities in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., and in New Jersey.

In late 2015, Ling was stopped as he arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, N.Y., from Taiwan. An agent from Homeland Security Investigations detained Ling and his two Apple iPhones to search the devices. On the phones, HSI agents said, were numerous fraudulent domain names and e-mails that showed he had reportedly communicated with others to smuggle in counterfeit goods to the United States.

Ling was released but his importing actions were followed as more counterfeit shipments were found.

After his arrest at San Francisco International Airport, he was detained by law enforcement. He made his initial court appearance on Sept. 1 at the U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco and is now awaiting a bail hearing.