CATCH THE BUZZ
Was The Scammer Scammed?
Charges in a million-dollar honey dumping indictment against three people in Florida have been dismissed.
Lawyer Robin Scroggie announced the dismissal of the indictment for conspiracy, wire fraud, customs fraud, making false entries, misbranding and criminal forfeiture, against defendants Chin Shih Chou, Wei Tang Lo and Qiao Chu.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had accused the trio of a scheme aimed at avoiding dumping duties on Chinese honey by importing mislabeled Chinese honey as rice fructose.
ICE claimed the scheme had deprived the U.S. of more than $1,150,000 in anti-dumping duties.
Chou, a citizen of Hong Kong; and Chu, a citizen of China; were arrested in November, 2011, and had been detained without bail since that time. Lo, an American citizen, had been released on bail.
The three faced a 13-count federal criminal indictment.
The case had been scheduled to begin trial June 3. However, an assistant U.S. Attorney appeared at the sentencing of Chou, who had pled guilty, and announced that the U.S. Attorney's Office intended to dismiss the indictment.
It said “newly discovered evidence makes it unlikely that the government will be able to prove” its case
It seems the U.S. Attorney office had sent syrup samples to an independent testing laboratory in Germany, which reported the syrup was indeed rice syrup, not honey.
Why Chou pleaded guilty to importing mislabeled honey was not explained.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney said although Chou had pled guilty, he had actually committed no crime, and therefore should not be sentenced.
The U.S. Attorney filed a request to dismiss all charges against all three defendants. U.S. District Judge Marcia Howard of the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., then dismissed the indictment against Chou, Lo and Chu, and ordered defendants Chou and Chu be released from the courtroom.
Scroggie, the attorney for Chu, says in a statement that although he is pleased his client has been exonerated and released, the charges should never have been filed.
“The testing conducted by the Customs Laboratory was a complete sham,” Scroggie says. “We are most thankful to the court for its courageous action, seeing the scientific testing in this case for what it really was and taking appropriate action."
The U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection had claimed that the three defendants imported large quantities of Chinese-origin honey into the U.S., and had evaded anti-dumping duties totaling several million dollars, by falsely declaring the imported syrup as rice fructose syrup.
Howard had issued a written decision on Nov. 7, 2012 granting Chu's motion to exclude expert opinion testimony, agreeing with Chu's defense counsel that the results of the testing of the syrup conducted by the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory in Savannah, Georgia were unreliable and inadmissible.
The U.S. Attorney appealed that ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, but dismissed the appeal in January.
After the U.S. Attorney Office's loss of Chu's expert testimony motion, it had sent syrup samples to the independent lab in Germany, which confirmed it was not honey.
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