June 25th, 2019 | Updated on June 27th, 2022
June 25, Providence, Rhode Island – In a continuation to one of the most shocking stories to emerge this year, a New Jersey-based military contractor charged with selling the military counterfeit goods has pled guilty to all charges.
Last May, the New York City resident was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and counterfeit trafficking.
1. Profiteering Off War In The Worst Way Possible
Ramin Kohanbash, the owner of the New Jersey-based supplier California Surplus, is the accused. He has pled guilty today to the wire fraud and counterfeit trafficking charges brought against him. The New York City man was formally charged by the U.S Attorney’s office in May, charges which the accused has now accepted.
U.S Attorney Aaron Weisman gave a damning statement. Kohanbash sold $20 million worth of Chinese counterfeit apparel and gear to several wholesalers.
Many of these counterfeit goods made their way as far as U.S. Air Force personnel in Afghanistan.
Many believe such practices could endanger the lives of active servicemen fighting abroad. The apparel and gear in question were for use in active service. According to the U.S. Attorney, Kohanbash stands in violation of military, government, and federal laws and faces up to 15 years in prison.
2. Counterfeits From China – “Made In America”
Ramin Kohanbash, and other members of California Surplus outsourced the manufacturing process. The manufacturing of said apparel and gear took place in China! The manufactured counterfeit items were then falsely labeled as manufactured in America.
According to reports, Kohanbash arranged for phony labels and tags to accompany the counterfeit items. The genuine items, as part of a military contract, aim to assist servicemen in performing their duties.
The counterfeits did not have the required special fabric. Not only that, the false labels attested that they met specifications. The fake labels also misrepresented the products as American-made.
3. The Contracted Counterfeit Military Supplies
California Surplus was under a $20 million contract to supply the U.S with special gear and apparel. From 2013 to 2018, the contractor supplied these counterfeit items to the military and other wholesalers.
Part of the contract included special parkas made from a special, near-infrared fabric. A fabric that makes the wearer harder to detect with night vision. Another item included in the contract was military-grade hoods meant to be permanently flame resistant.
Kohanbash also sent samples of the original fabric to his sources in China, for copying and reproduction. Consider the current political climate and a tense trade war with China for a moment. Department of Defense uniforms and gear could well be in the wrong hands.
Kohanbash and his company are in direct violation of several U.S. laws. According to the Berry Amendment, any uniform or gear intended for the Department of Defense must be manufactured in the U.S. or in specifically designated countries. These countries normally have a designation under the Trade Agreements Act. This is something that China lacks with the U.S.
4. The Fallout
Profiting off warfare is bad enough. But profiting off supplying counterfeit gear to the United States military is a whole other level. Our brave servicemen and women put their lives on the line every single day in hostile territory, far from home. In 2017 alone, there were over 4,672 deaths from terrorism in Afghanistan. This should give you some idea about how hostile things are in active war theatres like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Over 200 of the counterfeit items ended up in the hands of active U.S Air Force personnel in Afghanistan.
These brave men and women depend on the equipment and gear supplied to the U.S. military. Often times, the military brings in contractors to ensure the right supplies reach the right places. However, when a contractor knowingly supplies counterfeit items there are serious risks. Counterfeits that endanger the lives of service personnel pose serious questions.
The brave servicemen and women of the United States pay the ultimate price for our nation’s continued freedom. They put themselves in harm’s way to ensure people like me can always find McDonald’s, Starbucks and Cox near me. As a pacifist, but also a patriot, I think I speak for most Americans when I say this heinous act has put American lives at risk. How many lives could have been lost as a direct result of Kohanbash and his trafficking? At least two hundred. Time to evaluate contractors more rigorously? I’d say, yes.