As Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues its efforts to modernize the regulatory framework which governs customs brokerage, disturbing news has again arise about misdeeds by one customs broker. Specifically, Alejandro Santos of Laredo, Texas has pled guilty to three counts: entry of goods falsely classified (misstating country of origin to reduce duty) (18 U.S.C. 541); smuggling (18 U.S.C. 545); and false statements (18 U.S.C. 1001), plus agreed to surrender his customs brokers license and restitution in the sum of $192,375.94 which is to be paid.
The scheme was discovered when Import Specialists conducted an audit and requested documents. Santos claimed to not have them. A search warrant was executed which led to the discovery of documents showing Santos proceeded in a manner that can only be described as too brazen! He was sending his importers bills for the correct amount of duty, declaring the imported goods as NAFTA eligible or American goods returned, and pocketing the difference! He further flunked the attitude test by lying to the investigators. Other counts alleging false country of origin and under valuation/wrong classification were dropped in exchange for the plea deal.
The most interesting event in this case was that at the time of the plea deal, there is a handwritten note changing the language from Santos will “immediately” surrender his brokerage license, to “prior to sentencing, unless otherwise terminated administratively before that date.” Makes one wonder why not demand the immediate surrender of the license as a condition of the plea?