L.A. clothing importer admits to skirting $6.4 million in tariffs
A Los Angeles County clothing brand has agreed to plead guilty to filing false customs forms to circumvent nearly $6.4 million in tariffs and doing business with a woman with ties to the Sinaloa cartel, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Both Ghacham Inc. and company executive Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, 38, will plead guilty to conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent documents through customs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Court documents show that Ghacham, who oversees Paramount’s international operations, submitted false documents that undervalued the company’s imports of apparel, allowing it to avoid paying the full tariffs it owed. At Ghacham’s request, the Chinese supplier provided Ghacham with two invoices: one for the correct amount paid by Ghacham Inc. for the goods, which the company kept in bookkeeping, and another invoice for the lower price.
Prosecutors say imports were undervalued by more than $32 million over a decade, and Gacham and his company avoided paying nearly $6.4 million in tariffs by selling clothing under the Platini brand.
Ghacham Inc. also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The company admitted to doing business with Maria Tiburcia Cázares Pérez, sister of Sinaloa cartel figure Victor Emilio Cázares Salazar, who was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison for shipping large quantities of cocaine into Mexico from producers in Colombia and Venezuela and distributing drugs throughout the United States .
Cázares Pérez identified as drug dealer and subject to economic sanctions Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the Act prohibits individuals and companies in the United States from doing business with those on the list.
In 2006, Cázares Pérez and Ghacham Inc. formed a joint venture called “Platini Jeans Cougar De Mexico Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada de Capital Variable,” or Platini Mexico, prosecutors said. Although the agent notified the president of Ghacham Inc. the following year about federal laws prohibiting business activity, prosecutors said the professional relationship would continue through February 2021.
After pleading guilty, Ghacham Inc. faces a statutory fine of up to $10.5 million and five years of probation, and Mohamed Ghacham faces up to five years in federal prison.
Ghacham Inc. did not respond to an email seeking comment.