Salt Lake City Customs & Duties Fraud Attorney

Providing Proficient & Personalized Legal Representation

When companies commit customs fraud, they both circumvent protections for domestic manufacturers and gain an advantage over competitors who pay the required duties. While the customs duty and tariff schedule in the United States is somewhat complex, the schemes to evade customs duties often fall into four basic categories.

These categories are as follows:

  • Misrepresenting country of origin: An importer will create false paperwork to claim goods have a different country of origin (usually one with which the United States has a free-trade agreement)
  • Misclassification of goods: An importer will falsely claim a shipment consists of different kinds of goods with lower import duties
  • Undervaluation of imported goods: An importer will fraudulently undervalue imported products. Since tariff rates are based on the declared value of goods, this allows companies to underpay their duty obligation.
  • Or, an importer will claim goods are merely being transshipped —they were not going to be put in the stream of commerce in the United States, but were merely coming through a U. S. port on their way to another destination in a different foreign country.

For example, in 2012, the Department of Justice in California filed criminal and civil complaints against shipping brokers using the port of Long Beach, California. The complaints alleged that importers brought commercial shipments of such things as Chinese-made apparel and cigarettes made in India into Long Beach, claiming that they were merely being warehoused on their way to Mexico and other countries. The defendants then generated paperwork and created electronic records to support this fiction, while simply shipping the material into commerce in the United States. One of the more important parts of the complaint also alleged that the growers or originators of produce would fraudulently alter or change documents after certain shipments tested positive for contaminants such as salmonella.

False Claims Act

All of these types of schemes are subject to action under the False Claims Act as well as other laws. They serve to deprive the United States government of proper oversight concerning imports of products and even food for human consumption and deprive the U. S. taxpayers of lawfully obtaining import and customs duties to support the government’s mission. This type of fraud often requires the involvement of many different participants such as the importers, customs brokers, and other entities involved. Often, these people assisting such schemes are indicted as co-conspirators.

Whistleblowers are essential to fighting customs and duties fraud, which is extremely difficult for the government to detect through other means. Competitors and employees are often able to discover evidence of fraud and misconduct that the government would otherwise be unaware of. The False Claims Act protects individuals who come forward to report fraud from retaliation and potentially receive a reward.

Contact us today at (801) 901-3470 to speak with one of our knowledgeable customs and duties fraud attorneys in Salt Lake City. Schedule your free consultation!


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