Romeo owned and operated Romeo & Juliette Inc., a company that imported footwear manufactured in China and distributed under the brand names BearPaw and Attix. According to the indictment, from at least 1994 through 2011, Romeo engaged in a scheme to avoid paying the full amount of duty owed on the shoes by having employees and others create false invoices that substantially undervalued the footwear that was being imported, sometimes at 50 percent of the actual value and other times even less. Romeo had his employees submit the false invoices to U.S. Customs for purposes of calculating the customs duties and fees Romeo & Juliette was required to pay. Romeo allegedly avoided paying approximately $5.6 million in customs duties legally owed to the United States.
According to the indictment, during the course of the investigation, Romeo submitted to federal agents a false document that attempted to justify the lower duty that Romeo & Juliette paid to the United States. He also instructed employees to make false statements to federal investigators about the value of the footwear that was imported.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ("ICE") Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"). Assistant United States Attorney Todd A. Pickles is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Romeo faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the loss or gain caused by the fraud on the wire fraud counts. The maximum statutory prison term is five years on the conspiracy count and two years for causing the entry of goods falsely classified and causing the entry of goods by false statements. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Under Section 484 of the Tariff Act, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1484), the importer of record is responsible for using reasonable care to enter, classify and determine the value of imported merchandise and to provide any other information necessary to enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection to properly assess duties, collect accurate statistics, and determine whether other applicable legal requirements, if any, have been met. An importer of record’s failure to exercise reasonable care could delay release of the merchandise and, in some cases, could result in the imposition of penalties. Classification and valuation of textiles, apparel, and footwear requires detail knowledge of thousands of U.S. Customs regulations. David Trumbull, Principal of Agathon Associates, is a licensed and insured Customs Broker with 20-years experience in international trade and can assist you with questions of classification and valuation.