Fake iPhone smuggler gets 3-year prison sentence


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A Chinese national caught smuggling fake Apple products into the United States has been handed a three-year prison sentence.

Jianhua “Jeff” Li pled guilty to trafficking more than 40,000 devices, including counterfeit iPhone and iPad knockoffs, back in February. He made more than $1.1 million from the scheme.

Apple quickly cracks down on copycat devices in most markets. But thanks to a more lackadaisical approach to copyright laws in China, you can find blatant iPhone clones all over the place in the country.

However, those clones rarely make it to other countries — at least in large numbers. But Li managed to bring tens of thousands of them into the United States while living there on a student visa.

$1.1 million made from Apple clones

Court documents reveal Li conspired with several others, through a company called Dream Digitals, to smuggle more than 40,000 “electronic devices and accessories” into the United States.

Li also smuggled in labels and packaging containing counterfeit Apple trademarks. He ensured they remained separate from the electronics in an effort to avoid detection.

Once the devices landed, they shipped to conspirators all over the country. Li and his friends cashed in $1.1 million.

37 months in prison

After pleading guilty to the charges in February, authorities sentenced Li this week to 37 months in prison for his part in the scheme.

Some of Li’s accomplices already faced sentencing. Andreina Becerra received three years’ probation last October, while Roberto Volpe got sentenced to 22 months in prison.

Rosario LaMarca received the same sentence as Li — 37 months behind bars — in July 2017.

Apple remains a huge target for counterfeiters

This isn’t the first time counterfeiters targeted Apple, and it won’t be the last. Strong demand for its pricey products means they will always be the subject of such scams.

Back in April, federal agents arrested two college students who made nearly $1 million by returning more than 2,000 fake iPhones to Apple.

And in January, Apple rewarded South Korean cops who helped prevent nearly $1 million worth of fake accessories making their way into the United States.


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