L.A. truck company owner pleads guilty to smuggling apparel

| 3/11/2008

A Los Angeles trucking company owner recently pleaded guilty for his part in what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators have called the largest commercial fraud scheme “ever uncovered on the West Coast.”

Armando Salcedo, 45, admitted in federal court in Los Angeles that he worked to illegally bring Chinese made clothing and apparel into the U.S. through Customs without paying duty, according to an ICE-issued news release.

In Sept. 2007, ICE filed a 34-count indictment naming Salcedo and other suspects for a scheme of transporting Chinese-made clothing to the U.S. while falsely stating that the shipments were being sold to companies in Mexico.

Several U.S. clothing distributors purchased the clothing, including Kenko Warehouse and Hampshire Designers. The scheme included more than 7,000 shipping containers of apparel worth at least $267 million, and Salcedo was charged with being personally involved with 3,200 of the containers.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intercepted $67 million worth of the apparel and $25 million in cash during the investigation, most of which has been forfeited to the government.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Salcedo has agreed to forfeit $5 million of his personal property and assets, including $1.6 million from the sale of his company’s warehouse, $1.2 million in cash and his $2 million residence in Downey, CA.

Salcedo faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, the release stated. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12.