DOJ Press Release

A Texas vape store proprietor pleaded responsible Tuesday to a felony cost relating to the importation of counterfeit vaping merchandise, the Department of Justice introduced. Muhammad Uzair Khalid (Uzair), 36, of Garland, Texas, pleaded responsible within the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to one rely of trafficking in counterfeit items, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a)(1). Uzair admitted that, from October 2017 to November 2019, he deliberately and unlawfully imported counterfeit vaping-related objects from China, together with counterfeit vaping atomizers, labels, bins and luggage for vaping-related merchandise.

Since August 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and native well being departments and different scientific and public well being companions have been investigating a 2019 to 2020 nationwide outbreak of E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) that concerned greater than 1,000 stories of lung accidents — together with some leading to deaths — following the use of vaping merchandise. As the general public well being investigation has continued, authorities have warned that the accidents could also be linked to the use of vaping merchandise containing Vitamin E acetate, in addition to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

During a November 2019 search of a Texas vape store owned by Uzair, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) particular brokers seized counterfeit vaping-related objects, in addition to a machine used to fill vape cartridges, a number of objects that examined constructive for THC and an injector mechanism with an amber substance containing Vitamin E acetate.

In pleading responsible, Uzair admitted that he frequently communicated with Chinese producers concerning the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit vaping merchandise. In specific, Uzair consulted with Chinese producers on strategies to imitate the branding and logos of well-known American vape firms and imported and offered imitation vaping gadgets, labels and packaging. Uzair additional admitted that he adopted and used these counterfeit marks to increase his gross sales. Uzair additionally offered quite a few different counterfeit items at his vape store.

“The Department of Justice takes counterfeiting seriously,” mentioned Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to take these products off the market.”

“Our investigation made clear that we needed to take swift action against counterfeit vaping-related items,” mentioned U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas. “The Justice Department will not tolerate the importation of black-market goods.”

“HSI is committed to enforcing the nation’s intellectual property rights laws to help safeguard American consumers said Acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher Miller of HSI Dallas. “We strive to protect legitimate U.S. businesses from financial harm caused by criminal organizations that profit from trafficking in counterfeit goods, including counterfeit vaping products.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Harris Toliver took the defendant’s responsible plea in federal court docket in Dallas.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Phelesa M. Guy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas and Trial Attorneys Speare Hodges and Patrick Runkle of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. This matter was primarily investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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