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Home / Neighborhood / San Fernando Valley / La Puente man sentenced to five years in bogus batteries case

La Puente man sentenced to five years in bogus batteries case

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A San Gabriel Valley man was sentenced Monday to five years behind bars for participating in a scheme to manufacture and ship counterfeit laptop computer batteries from China to the United States, where they were sold to unsuspecting buyers via online marketplaces.

Zoulin “Allen” Cai, 30, was also ordered to pay over $9.2 million in restitution, plus a $25,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The La Puente resident pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Cai, a Chinese national who moved to Los Angeles County in 2012, worked for Shenzhen Theseus Technology Co. Ltd., a China-based company. Theseus Technology, which was owned and operated by Cai’s relatives, manufactured counterfeit lithium-ion batteries, some of which were designed for laptop computers.

Cai and various unindicted accomplices sold and shipped the counterfeit batteries to unsuspecting individual buyers via eBay and Amazon, falsely advertising them as brand-name new, genuine, original or OEM — original equipment manufacturer — products.

The batteries bore counterfeit trademarks of companies such as Apple, Dell, HP and Toshiba, as well as counterfeit certification marks of UL, a company that tests and certifies the safety of electronic products.

Counterfeit lithium-ion laptop batteries pose significant safety risks — including the risk of extreme heat, fire and explosions — and the batteries that Cai and his co-conspirators shipped frequently lacked required essential internal safeguards, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The bogus batteries were sold to numerous unsuspecting online buyers, including one victim whose laptop started smoking and nearly caught fire after the battery was installed, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.

The counterfeit batteries were imported, sold and shipped from warehouses in La Puente and the City of Industry that Cai ran and where federal agents made undercover purchases of counterfeit laptop batteries from him on several occasions, court papers show.

From 2014 through June 2019, Cai and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained at least $23.8 million from the sale of counterfeit laptop batteries through eBay and Amazon, according to the indictment returned in December 2019. They laundered those funds, including more than $18 million wired directly to Chinese bank accounts in the name of Theseus Technology, as well as other Chinese businesses involved in the conspiracy, federal prosecutors said.

Cai used his ill-gotten gains for a variety of personal expenses, including monthly lease payments for a Maserati sports car, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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