L.A. clothing importer admits to skirting $6.4 million in tariffs

A Los Angeles County clothing brand has agreed to plead guilty to submitting fake customs forms to skirt almost $6.4 million in tariffs and to doing business with a woman who has ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Ghacham Inc. and a company executive, Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, 38, will both plead guilty to conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent papers through customs, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

Ghacham, who managed the Paramount company’s international business affairs, submitted false documents that undervalued clothing the company imported, allowing it to avoid paying the full amount of tariffs owed, according to court documents. Chinese suppliers provided Ghacham two invoices at his request: one with the correct amount Ghacham Inc. paid for the goods, which the company kept in its bookkeeping, and a second invoice with a lower price.

Over 10 years, imported items were undervalued by more than $32 million, and Ghacham and his company, which sold clothing under the Platini brand name, avoided paying nearly $6.4 million in customs tariffs, prosecutors said.

Ghacham Inc. also agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The company admitted to doing business with Maria Tiburcia Cázares Pérez, the sister of Sinaloa cartel figure Victor Emilio Cázares Salazar, who was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison for shipping tons of cocaine from producers in Colombia and Venezuela to Mexico and distributing the drugs throughout the United States.

Cázares Pérez was designated a drug trafficker and subject to economic sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which bars people and companies in the U.S. from doing business with those on the list.

In 2006, Cázares Pérez and Ghacham Inc. entered into a joint business venture called “Platini Jeans Cougar De Mexico Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada de Capital Variable” or Platini Mexico, proseuctors said. Although agents notified the president of Ghacham Inc. the next year about the federal law prohibiting the business venture, prosecutors said that professional relationship continued through February 2021.

With their guilty pleas, Ghacham Inc. will face a statutory maximum of a $10.5-million fine and five years’ probation, and Mohamed Ghacham will face up to five years in federal prison.

Ghacham Inc. did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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