Justice Department officials have come down hard on a company that they say defrauded the government and puts our troops’ lives at risk over nearly a half-decade.
It’s a Brooklyn-based wholesaler that prosecutors say took $20 million from the U.S. military and other agencies and gave them counterfeit gear.
It gets worse. Prosecutors say that the $20 million worth of Chinese-made counterfeit goods were designed to look like domestically produced gear from the company, and that it defrauded the government and helped to orchestrate the counterfeiting process.
It happened between January 2013 and October 2018.
The counterfeit gear included 200 specialized parkas designed to counter night vision goggles – it’s something that would have been used by U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Afghanistan.
They were called the Multicam APECS Parkas and were sold to an unnamed U.S. Air Force base supply center. Prosecutors say the product didn’t actually do that, which could have put troops’ lives at risk.
Here’s how the parkas are supposed to work. They use a near-infrared technology woven into the fabric that is designed to make the wearer more difficult for enemy forces to detect with equipment such as night-vision goggles. But the counterfeit versions lacked the near-infrared technology, which the wearer couldn’t have known.
So exactly what law was broken? It was a violation of the Berry Amendment and the Trade Agreements Act, which require goods sold to the military and certain government buyers to be manufactured in either the United States or select countries.
But justice officials say that China isn’t one of those countries.
They are pointing the finger at 49-year-old Ramin Kohanbash and other associates, who they say operated a Brooklyn, New York, clothing and goods wholesaler.
According to a filing in U.S. District Court, he and his associates sent samples of legitimate U.S. military uniforms and gear to Chinese manufacturers, who then replicated the designs.
Then Kohanbash emailed them instructions on what changes should be made to the counterfeit goods or their labels, helping to guide the process, according to justice officials.
Officials say samples and photographs of tags and labels off the legitimate military gear were provided and replicated for the knockoff equipment.
Now federal prosecutors in Rhode Island have charged the New York City man with conspiring to manufacture and sell counterfeit clothing and uniforms to the U.S. military. Justice officials announced it in a news release.
They said the counterfeit goods were manufactured in China and then shipped to Kohanbash in the United States, who would then sell the gear to “other wholesalers who ultimately marketed and sold them to military and government buyers off as genuine, American-made products”.
There were more products than just the parkas. Justice officials said that items they seized made explicit, and false, statements about the product’s safety ratings.
In one such example, they pointed out that the labels on counterfeit hoods intended for military and law enforcement personnel stated that the items were “permanently flame resistant,” and that they met a specific industry standard for flame-resistant attire.
But they weren’t actually flame resistant.
According to prosecutors, in some cases Kohanbash went so far as to give those other wholesalers falsified letters of certification that claimed the U.S. military goods were genuine.
In total, Justice officials seized more than 1,700 boxes of counterfeit military uniform items that included ponchos, gloves and fleece jackets.
Kohanbash is due back in court on June 12 for an initial appearance on the charges contained in the court filing.