A year-and-a-half-long prison sentence involving the violation of aluminum extrusion orders could set the stage for future judgments.
Last month, Armando Garcia-Vazquez was handed an 18-month prison sentence by a federal judge in Puerto Rico for pleading guilty to “Conspiracy to smuggle goods into the United States.” Garcia-Vasquez participated in a fraud scheme to transship aluminum extrusions through Malaysia from China into Puerto Rico to avoid paying more than $2 million in duties.
The sentencing marks the first instance in which prison time has been issued for violating anti-dumping rules for aluminum extrusion orders. Garcia-Vazquez was also fined $25,000 for his offense.
According to court documents, between December 2010 and February 2012, Garcia-Vazquez’s company, PRP Trading Corp., “imported or attempted to import Chinese-origin aluminum extrusions totaling $6,567,616.00 by submitting documents to U.S. Customs and Border Protection falsely claiming that the aluminum extrusions originated in Malaysia. The anti-dumping duty due and owning on these importations was $2,185,702.60.”
Garcia-Vasquez was arrested in June 2013 and first appeared in court later that month. He pled guilty in August 2014, and Judge Francisco Besosa handed down the sentence May 14.
Jeff Henderson, director of operations at the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC), says the sentencing takes the severity of violating extrusion orders to a whole new level. “Now, we have a precedent on the books for someone going to jail for this,” he says, adding that just fining violators hasn’t proven effective enough.
Earlier this year, the judge rejected an agreement reached by the defendant’s lawyer and U.S. Attorney, who recommended a probation sentence. Prior to that decision, the AEC had been working in support of a petition by Steve Lausell and Alverto Recio of Puerto Rican aluminum extruder Lausell Del Caribe LLC, who testified before the judge and argued for a stiffer penalty.
Recio says in a statement released through AEC that “although we derived no pleasure from this process and nothing will undo the damage done to our families, employees, and industry, we feel we have prevailed in setting a precedent.”
Adds Henderson, “This is an important wake-up call to all who can think they can outsmart the system. The U.S. judicial system has demonstrated that they will levy heavy fines, and now imprisonment, to those caught and convicted of schemes to evade trade duties.”