Prison time ordered for fake cell phone ring

Five people convicted in connection to a multi-million-dollar scheme involving the sale of fake cell phones and accessories via sites like Amazon and eBay have been given federal prison sentences.

Paul (Pavel) Babichenko, Peter (Piotr) Babichenko, Timofey Babichenko, David Bibikov and Michael (Mikhail) Iyerusalimets were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods in connection with the case last year.

Court documents show that the conspirators sold at least $9.5m-worth of counterfeit cell phones and cell phone accessories on the online retail platforms that were misrepresented as new and genuine Apple and Samsung products.

Using at least six different corporate entities, Pupko smuggled counterfeit phones and accessories in bulk from manufacturers in Hong Kong and China, repackaged the products, and then individually resold to consumers online as genuine and new in order to deceive customers. Some of the products sold by the gang were unsafe and capable of causing burns, fires or electrocution.

The alleged ringleader of the group – Pavel Babichenko – received the toughest sentence at six years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, while Timofey and Piotr Babichenko both received four years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Iyerusalimets got two months in prison, followed by nine months home detention and then three years of supervised release, while Bibikov faces one month in prison, nine months of home detention, and three years’ supervised release.

A sixth individual who pleaded guilty and did not stand trial, Artur Pupko, has been sentenced to five years’ probation. The group have also been ordered to pay just under $44,000 in fines.

In 2021, two other suspects - Natalya Babichenko and Gennady Babichenko – were respectively acquitted and had their case dismissed. Kristina Babichenko and Anna Iyerusalimets were also found not guilty in jury trials that year.

An OECD report from 2017 estimated that around one in five mobile phones and a quarter of computer game consoles shipped internationally are counterfeit.

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