International trafficker in fake Apple products imprisoned

Zhiwei “Allen” Liao has been sentenced in federal court to 51 months in prison for his role as an organizer and leader of an international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit Apple products.

The defendant was also ordered to forfeit two residences along with $120,370 in US currency and more than 200 Apple devices seized during the investigation.

According to court documents, Liao and his brothers, Zhimin Liao and Zhiting Liao, led an international exchange fraud scheme involving more than 10,000 counterfeit iPhones and iPads.

They imported counterfeit iPhones and iPads from China that looked genuine and included identification numbers (IMEI and serial numbers) matching identification numbers on real iPhones and iPads that were under warranty and had been previously sold to customers in the US and Canada. 

Co-conspirators traveled to hundreds of Apple Stores and attempted to exchange counterfeit devices for genuine iPhones and iPads resulting in a loss of $6.1m to Apple, according to a statement from the FBI.

Zhiwei Liao – who is said to have “micromanaged” the operations - then sent the fraudulently obtained, but genuine Apple products primarily to China where they were sold at a premium.      

Zhimin Liao and Zhiting Liao were also leaders of the conspiracy and were sentenced to 41 months in custody last October.

This case is part of a multi-year investigation led primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the San Diego Police Department that resulted in 12 felony convictions, the forfeiture of five residences in San Diego with an estimated value of more than $4.1m, over $250,000 in cash, and more than 200 Apple products that were either counterfeit, fraudulently obtained, or used during the criminal operations.

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