TSI Accessories Group, Inc., a former jewelry importer, agreed to pay $402,637 to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by failing to pay customs duties on sterling silver earring imports from China. The amount of customs duties owed depends on the item’s value—the more expensive the item is, the lower the duty rate.
Between 2012 and 2015, TSI Accessories imported display cards with multiple pairs of earrings for resale at department stores. TSI allegedly improperly reported the quantity and value of these imports from U.S. Customs and Border Protection by describing on import records the number of display cards imported, rather than the number of pairs of earrings on each card. By increasing the declared value of these imports, TSI paid a lower duty than they should have based on each earring’s value.
“Companies taking advantage of U.S. markets must comply with the law, including paying import duties levied to protect domestic companies from unfair competition,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “This settlement underscores our efforts to ensure that importers uphold their responsibilities in American markets. We credit TSI’s cooperation in this investigation and agreement to make the government whole.”
“In addition to securing our borders from terrorists, terrorist weapons, and dangerous goods, CBP is charged with enforcing U.S. trade laws to protect the American economy,” said Michael S. Denning, Director, Boston Field Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “We will continue to use the authorities and tools at our disposal to combat trade fraud to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace for all traders.”
This settlement resolves allegations brought forward by a whistleblower under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. This Act allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and receive a share of any recovery. The whistleblower in this settlement will receive approximately $70,000 of the recovery in this case.
“Homeland Security Investigations takes custom fraud cases very seriously. Mislabeling import documentation in order to pay lower duties improperly inflates costs to everyday consumers,” said David Magdycz, Acting Special Agent in Charge, HSI Boston. “HSI applauds the work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their significant assistance in the investigation, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office for aggressively prosecuting this fraud.”
If you believe that you may have information about a company committing fraud against the government, the Qui Tam Attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei are readily available to assist in bringing forward a case. We have years of experience litigating under the False Claims Act by holding individuals and corporations accountable for fraud against the government. We have the resources to provide you with guidance on whistleblowing cases relating to fraud within government programs, securities and commodities, tax payments, the banking industry, and more. We have won our clients millions of dollars in compensation as a result of their efforts working with our lawyers and the government. If you would like to consult with one of our False Claims Act attorneys, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation Form or call (202) 973-0900 to speak with a lawyer.