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Authorities Bust Counterfeit Cell Phone Operation After Random Search At JFK

Officials Say Devices Were Really Broken Devices That Were Repaired & Re-Sold
(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Authorities on Long Island announced the seizure of more than 32,000 counterfeit cell phones Wednesday, saying three individuals took advantage of unsuspecting victims.

The operation which led to the arrest of three men — Ye Zhang, Robert Eisenberg and Qiang Chen — came to light after customs agents knew something wasn’t right during a random inspection at John F. Kennedy Airport. 

Agents found a shipment of a variety of brands in one box.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell Reports

Police and federal agents traced the  shipment to a local warehouse in Plainview, where they arrested the three men, who did business under the name Amax and Cellular Wholesale USA.

The questionable shipment sparked further investigation as to the origin of the phones, all of which carried the label of trusted brands including BlackBerry, Samsung, LG, and Apple.

“You think you’re buying that iPad, that iPhone, you’re not buying the iPhone. You’re buying a broken iPhone that they repaired and now are selling it for a profit.” said Det. Sgt. Pat Ryder of the Nassau County Police.

Authorities also seized $500,000 in cash from the site, believed to be the profits earned from selling the counterfeit  phones.

The discovery of the fakes reflects a growing trend in phone re-sale and counterfeiting.

“These phones were essentially older phones or phones that had been broken in the past that were re-made,” New York Homeland Security Chief James Hayes told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa With More On The Story

According Hayes, the company running the scheme would shut down their website when customers began to complain and then start a new website.

Officials said the phones are manufactured or fixed in China and then sent to the U.S. where they head to cell phone stores, street vendors, websites and other sellers that not know that the phones are imposters because they look real and they seem to work.

“Eventually they will break because they’re not made with quality pieces,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Prosecutors said they have no idea how many of the counterfeits were sold, but officials are working to determine what companies were duped in order to alert them to missing inventory.

Have you been a victim of counterfeit phones?  Let us know in the comments section below…