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Florida man (not that one) sold $100M-plus in counterfeit network gear

Military, schools, and hospitals burned by off-brand Cisco inferno

A 39-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling hundreds of millions of dollars of counterfeit Cisco gear to unsuspecting schools, hospitals, government agencies, and the military.

According to the US Justice Department, between 2013 and 2022 Onur Aksoy, based in Miami, founded at least 19 companies in New Jersey and Florida and launched 15 Amazon and 10 eBay storefronts from which he peddled "tens of thousands" of low-quality or faulty networking devices gussied up to look like new or official Cisco equipment.

The goods, imported from sellers in China and Hong Kong, were often loaded with pirated Cisco software and packaged within Cisco boxes bearing Cisco labels and stickers. Documentation was also made to look legitimate, the Justice Department said.

As you might expect, the equipment was inferior to actual Cisco kit. Some of the fakes performed poorly or flamed out quickly, and in some cases, the DoJ notes, the equipment resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in damages to users' networks and operations.

All the while, Aksoy's businesses collected at least $100 million, much of which he pocketed.

Aksoy's activities drew the attention of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which reportedly seized 180 shipments of counterfeit goods shipped to companies owned by Aksoy between 2014 and 2022. When confronted about these goods, Aksoy reportedly submitted false documents under the alias Dave Durden.

The influx of counterfeit networking goods didn't go unnoticed by Cisco. Between 2014 and 2019, the network giant issued seven cease and desist letters to Aksoy. On at least two occasions, the Justice Department says the accused responded to inquiries with fraudulent and/or forged documents.

Despite pressure from CBP and Cisco's lawyers, the Justice Department claims Aksoy did little to hide his activities and continued to import and then fraudulently sell counterfeit network equipment sourced from the same suppliers.

In July 2021, agents raided Aksoy's warehouse and seized 1,156 counterfeit devices with an estimated retail value of more than $7 million. However, it wasn't until last June that Aksoy was arrested and charged – on one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, and three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Aksoy has since pleaded to lesser charges and faces between 48 and 78 months in prison when he appears in court on November 6. Under the terms of the plea deal, he is required to forfeit $15 million in illicit gains and pay restitution to his customers.

Anyone who believes they purchased faulty equipment from one of Aksoy's many businesses can find out more information and report their purchases on the Justice Department website here. ®

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