Paramount clothing company dodged $6.4 million in customs duties, feds say

Paramount-based clothing company Ghacham Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges alleging it undervalued imported garments in a scheme to avoid paying millions in customs fees and conducted business with a woman tied to the Sinaloa Cartel, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Ghacham Inc., which operates under the brand name Platini, has been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse and conspiracy to engage in any transaction or dealing in properties of a specially designated narcotics trafficker under a statute known as the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, according to the DOJ.

Officials said that from July 2011 to February 2021, the clothing company undervalued imported garments by more than $32 million and failed to pay roughly $6.4 million in customs duties.

According to the DOJ, this was done under the direction of Mohamed Ghacham, a 38-year-old executive at the company, who had Chinese suppliers prepare two invoices for the clothing company: a real one that reflected the actual price paid for the goods imported from China and a fraudulent customs invoice that stated the undervalued price.

When making its way through customs, officials said the company submitted the fraudulent invoices to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and kept the real invoices in its own accounting records.

Ghacham has since been charged with one count of conspiracy to pass false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse, according to the DOJ.

Ghacham Inc. is also accused of conducting business with Maria Tiburcia Cazarez Perez, a woman who was previously designated as being on the Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers sanctions list for her connection to the Sinaloa Cartel’s money laundering crimes.

She was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for drug trafficking activities in federal cases out of San Diego and New York City, according to the DOJ.

Today in federal court, plea agreements were filed for Gracham Inc. and Mohamed Ghacham. They are expected to make their initial court appearances on November 18. Upon entering a guilty plea, the company faces a maximum penalty of $10.5 million in fines and five years of probation, according to the DOJ.

As part of the probation, Ghacham Inc. will also be required to implement an effective anti-money laundering compliance and ethics program with an outside compliance monitor, according to the DOJ.

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.