Former Laredo customs broker sentenced for false classification of imported goods
POSTED: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 8:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 9:29am
LAREDO, TX — Alejandro Santos, 34, a former U.S. Customs broker, has been ordered to prison following his convictions related to the smuggling of goods into the country, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala, of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. Santos pleaded guilty May 14, 2013, before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker.
Today, U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen, who later accepted the guilty plea, handed Santos a total sentence of 28 months in federal prison for his three convictions of entry of goods by false classification, smuggling goods into the U.S. and making a false statement to an HSI agent. He was further ordered to pay nearly $140,000 in restitution and will serve three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
“As illustrated by this probe, HSI and U.S.Customs and Border Protection import specialists are cracking down on customs fraud, which often involves a substantial loss of revenue for law abiding companies and the government,” said Ayala. “Our focus on trade violations and related criminal activities is crucial to maintaining the integrity of a vital commercial trade.”
Santos was licensed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to file entry documents for commercial shipments on behalf of importers. As a result of his conviction, Santos was required to surrender his broker’s license. His responsibilities included generating entry packages, describing, classifying and valuating shipments for importation into the U.S. and submitting appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of his clients for any duties, taxes and fees owed, if any.
Santos used a scheme to defraud the government by falsifying the country of origin on goods imported into the United States. The falsification allowed him to benefit from the North American Free Trade Agreement preferential treatment program, resulting in zero duties and taxes owed. In truth, duties and taxes should have been paid to the U.S. Santos would then collect money from his clients to cover the correct amount of duties and taxes that should have been paid to CBP. Santos then failed to turn over the money to CBP, keeping the monies for himself.
Santos admitted to importing various goods into the U.S. made in India and Italy, while falsely claiming the goods were made in Mexico. He would then collect money from his clients (importers of record) and keep the money.
Santos was permitted to remain on bond but is required to surrender no later than June 9, 2014, to begin his sentence with a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The case was investigated by HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Roberto Ramirez and former AUSA Roel Canales prosecuted the case. AUSA Homero Ramirez handled the sentencing today.