A furniture business executive who falsified documents to avoid more than $1.4 million in import duties on the Chinese goods he sold was sentenced to a year of home detention Monday.
Jeff Zeng, president of Blue Furniture Solutions, was also sentenced to spend two additional years on supervised release for his role in mislabeling customs forms to make it appear that wooden furniture subject to a 216 percent import tax was instead made of metal. Documents filed with U.S. District Court in Charleston show Zeng and Blue Furniture Solutions, located in Miramar, Fla., submitted 49 falsified customs forms in 2015 for 14,542 pieces of furniture used primarily in college dormitory rooms. Some of that furniture was imported through the Port of Charleston.Zeng, a U.S. citizen, said during his sentencing hearing the scheme was “the most embarrassing and shameful moment of my life.” He said he disagreed with the U.S. government’s imposition of the anti-dumping duties and mislabeled the customs forms to benefit his company and his birth country where the furniture was produced.
A co-conspirator, Alexander Cheng, pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Cheng, the company’s chief financial officer, is awaiting sentencing.
Zeng had faced up to 18 months in prison. However, the Judge David Norton reduced the sentence after hearing from character witnesses who said Zeng was a trustworthy and generous person who made a bad decision. Among those who testified was Zeng’s ex-wife. “It’s rare that an ex-wife has good things to say about her ex-husband,” Norton said before sentencing Zeng. Norton also considered Zeng’s recent attempts to shift some manufacturing jobs from China to the U.S. Fang Li, the owner of Blue Furniture Solutions, said in a letter to Norton that Zeng has convinced him to invest $300,000 in a manufacturing site to add to the company’s current workforce of five. “This will allow him to grow his business, employ people and pay his (civil) fine,” Norton said of the sentence that doesn’t require prison time.
A federal civil fraud case against Zeng and the furniture company winds down in Austin, Texas. In that case, which was spurred by a competitor’s complaint, the U.S. Attorney’s office is seeking payment of nearly $4.7 million in fines and damages from the customs scheme.
Individuals who are aware of specific and detailed information about fraud and evasion of our import tariffs may be able to become whistleblowers under the False Claims Act and be eligible for a reward of up to 30% of what the Government collects. For more information about tariff fraud cases contact attorney Newman.