PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A New York man has been charged with conducting a scheme to sell counterfeit clothing and uniforms to the U.S. military, including the Rhode Island National Guard.
Ramin Kohanbash, owner of California Surplus based out of Elizabeth, N.J., was charged with wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods by the U.S. Attorney in Rhode Island. He was summoned to appear in court in Providence next month.
The charging documents allege Kohanbash and others made $20 million in the scheme to sell counterfeit uniforms and military clothing to the military.
The scheme, according to the documents, involved buying sample military uniform items and producing phony reproductions in China, then selling them back to suppliers in the U.S. who then sold them to the military.
Prosecutors allege Kohanbash also provided “false Berry Amendment certification letters,” which affirm that a uniform was made in the United States.
The uniforms were not only made outside the U.S., but also did not provide the protection to service members that the garments claimed. In one example, prosecutors said Kohanbash had thousands of “FREE” hoods, using a registered trademark he was counterfeiting.
The document says the tag in the counterfeited hoods claimed it was NFPA 2112 compliant, which refers to flame-resistant attire.
“The counterfeit FREE hoods were not flame resistant,” prosecutors wrote.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said there are other members of the conspiracy who were involved in buying the goods from Kohanbash and selling them directly to the U.S. government. Those companies are named using only initials in the court documents.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Kohanbash said: “I don’t know anything about that, sorry,” then hung up the phone on a reporter. He did not answer subsequent phone calls or a text message.
The Rhode Island National Guard, which court documents say was sold counterfeit Primaloft jackets and trousers, did not comment.
North Kingstown company United Associates is an alleged victim of the scheme, according to the documents. United manufactures and sells products to the U.S. military including uniforms, fleece jackets and parkas with infrared technology.
The court documents allege Kohanbash was sending United products to his manufacturer in China, who was creating counterfeit versions and passing them off as United products.
“He basically had our products reproduced in China, copying our tag,” said Val Boezi, the owner of United Associates. “They actually sewed in our label.”
Boezi told Eyewitness News he discovered the alleged scheme after a customer at an Air Force base called complaining about the quality of a United jacket, and asking why he was able to buy it from a dealer at a cheaper price than from United.
Boezi said he asked the customer to send over the products they bought, and he sent them to a lab to test the fabric for infrared technology. The products came back as counterfeit, Boezi said.
“These guys flaunted what they did,” Boezi said. “These goods went all over the world with my name on them, with United’s name.”
Court documents say Kohanbash sold counterfeit goods to United, which Boezi says was intentional. He purchased some of the counterfeit goods to confirm the alleged scheme. He said he did not sell or distribute any of the counterfeit items purchased from Kohanbash.
United Associates filed a civil lawsuit against California Surplus, Kohanbash, and a company called Dakota Outerwear last year.
Prosecutors say 1,700 boxes of counterfeit uniforms and military clothing were recovered in Kohanbash’s New Jersey warehouse.
Kohanbash has been summoned for an arraignment in federal court in Providence on June 12.