CEO pleads guilty to making millions selling fake Cisco products

The CEO of over a dozen businesses pled guilty to importing tens of thousands of low-quality computer networking devices, slapping the devices with counterfeit Cisco labels, and then selling the fakes to companies all over the US for nearly a decade.

The US organizations duped in the elaborate counterfeit scheme include hospitals, schools, government agencies, and the US military.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) says 39-year old Miami resident Onur Aksoy, indicted last July, would import the counterfeit goods from select suppliers in China and Hong Kong.

Aksoy, who pled guilty in federal court June 5th, ran an extensive operation which included trafficking the goods through dozens of companies he created for the fraudulent transactions.

Since 2014, officials say Aksoy was the acting CEO for at least 19 companies, 15 Amazon storefronts, and 10 eBay storefronts, located in both Florida and New Jersey, before being taken down by law enforcement.

The umbrella firm he operated all the businesses from was known as Pro Network entities.

DOJ officials estimate the retail value of the goods Aksoy sold to be over one billion dollars, netting Pro Networks over $100 million in revenue over the lengthy time frame.

"In July 2021, agents executed a search warrant at Aksoy’s warehouse and seized 1,156 counterfeit Cisco devices with a retail value of over $7 million," the DoJ said.

Cisco products
Novikov Aleksey | Shutterstock

As one of the largest and most reputable IT brands in the world, Cisco is often a target of counterfeiters, according to the tech giant's website.

Retail giant Amazon, which runs its own Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU), works closely with name brands like Cisco in cases such as these.

Amazon accounts for a large number of Cisco product sales, between Cisco items sold on its online store, to combining product sales with Amazon Web Services.

Head of Cisco's global brand protection Al Palladin said the strong collaboration with Amazon’s CCU and a joint criminal referral helped to bring Askoy to justice.

"We are committed to protecting our valued customers and legitimate authorized Cisco channel partners and maintaining the integrity and quality of Cisco products and services,” Palladin said.

The operation

The fake networking devices were often imported from suppliers as pirated, used, and discarded lower-model products. The devices were then modified to appear as genuine versions of new, enhanced, and more expensive Cisco devices, law enforcement said.

The low-quality devices were also given Cisco branding, including labels, stickers, boxes, documentation, and packaging – even stamping them with counterfeit trademarks registered and owned by Cisco.

The devices would inevitably suffer from numerous performance, functionality, and safety problems, or just flat-out fail to work, causing significant damage to the networks and operations of the organizations he sold them to.

"Between 2014 and 2019, Cisco sent seven letters to Aksoy asking him to cease and desist his trafficking of counterfeit goods," the DoJ said.

Aksoy, who is accused of forging fake legal documents and oftentimes using an alias, faces more than six years in prison and will be forced to forfeit at least $15 million in illegal profits made from selling the fake goods.

The dual US and Turkish citizen is being charged with conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods and committing wire and mail fraud.

Director of Amazon’s CCU Kebharu Smith said the guilty plea sends a strong message “that selling counterfeits has severe consequences.”

“We are grateful for the collaboration with Cisco and the work of the U.S. Department of Justice to bring this counterfeiter to justice.”

The DoJ is urging anyone who may have been a victim of the Cisco scam to visit the US Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey website for a complete list of the merchants and businesses listed under Pro Network entities.

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