A New Jersey man has been charged with defrauding the United States government and selling counterfeit military gear for over $20 million dollars. The conspiracy to sell cheap Chinese knockoffs began in 2013 and ran until 2018 when government investigators shut down his operation.
Ramin Kohanbash, 49, ran wholesale companies in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California. Kohanbash’s companies put American lives at risk in war zones as he allegedly sold 200 bogus parkas to the Air Force that are supposed to protect troops from detection by IR Night Vision goggles when in fact they did not.
The deals that these companies made with the Chinese, besides the defrauding the government and selling equipment that doesn’t do what it is designed to do, also violated the Berry Amendment and the Trade Agreements Act, which require goods sold to the military and certain government buyers to be manufactured in either the United States or select countries. China isn’t on that list and that, the government stated in its indictment was something Kohanbash, knew and openly tried to mislead the government on.
In the parkas sold to, and issued to Air Force personnel in Afghanistan, they have a near-infrared technology woven into the fabric that is designed to make the wearer more difficult for enemy forces to detect with equipment such as night-vision goggles. However, the counterfeit ones that were issued in a war zone, lacked the near-infrared technology. It isn’t known if the Air Force reported their findings once the troops began to wear their own NVGs (night vision goggles).
According to the Justice Department, Kohanbash sent the Chinese samples of the actual U.S. military products to essentially copy the overall designs and then emailed instructions on what changes were to be made as well as with the labels that went with the bogus uniforms. He did this throughout the process and would email back and forth with his contact in China.
Once the amendments to the handtags and labels were agreed upon by both parties, the counterfeit goods were manufactured in China and shipped to Kohanbash’s warehouse in New Jersey. Kohanbash then sold the goods to wholesalers and issued fake Berry Amendment certification letters and then falsely communicated that the counterfeit items were, in fact, TAA (Trade Agreements Act), compliant.
In the government’s indictment, one of the defendants, identified as R.L. falsely states that “ I have been to his office and have been in his factory that he makes products for us. It is a fairly large operation. We have been using his products for a long time and he has produced quality products for us at competitive prices.”
Among the other counterfeit items that Kohanbash had sold the military were 150 fire resistant hoods, Polartec ™ sweaters, and Primaloft ® jackets and trousers that he sold to a National Guard unit in North Kingstown, RI. He then sold more counterfeit Primaloft ® jackets and trousers to another National Guard unit in East Greenwich, RI.
It should be noted that the items that Kohanbash sold to the military were tagged to read, “permanently flame resistant” and that they met a specific industry standard for flame-resistant uniforms. When, in fact, the clothing was not flame resistant at all.
When Justice Department officials raided his offices, they confiscated over 1700 boxes of uniform items including counterfeit gloves, poncho liners, and fleece jackets. Government agents also seized over $24,000 in cash.
The indictment for Kohanbash can be seen here:
In addition to recovering the $20,000,000 fraudulently charged to the United States government for counterfeit items, Kohanbash is also facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Which is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 5 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000; Trafficking in counterfeit goods, which is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
He is due to be arraigned on June 12.
While the garment industry, especially in the NY/NJ area is full of “knockoffs”, brands that get sold to retailers as the genuine article. This case goes far beyond that. Military members lives were put in danger by selling them materials that were supposed to protect them in either a combat or a hazardous situation and they do not.
Photo: DOD, Justice Department
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