Two executives of a Florida importing business were indicted Wednesday for evading U.S. tariffs on furniture their company shipped through the Port of Charleston from China.
The government filed the charges against Yingqing “Jeff” Zeng and Alexander Cheng in U.S. District Court.
Both men are owners and officers of Miramar, Fla-based Blue Furniture Solutions LLC. Zeng, 46, is president. Cheng, 64 and a North Carolina resident, is chief financial officer.
The company sells furniture primarily designed for use in college apartments, according to a court filing. The wooden products it imports have been subject to a 216 percent "anti-dumping" fee that was enacted in 2004 to combat and deter what the U.S. government called illegal trade practices in China.
According to the indictment, Zeng and Cheng submitted forms between January and November of 2015 to the Department of Homeland Security that mislabeled the furniture to avoid paying the tariffs. Some of the shipments entered the country through Charleston's port in July of that year.
Zeng and Cheng face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart of Charleston is the prosecutor.
This isn’t the first run-in that Zeng and Chang have had with federal authorities over anti-dumping fees. They were sued in Texas in 2015 in a similar case. Blue Furniture Solutions and another company, XMillennium LLC, also were named in the complaint.
In that case, the government said Zeng and Chang are U.S. citizens. It also alleged “knowing and fraudulent evasion of millions of dollars of anti-dumping duties and Customs fees owed on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the People’s Republic of China from 2011 through 2015.”
A judge put the civil lawsuit on hold last week until at least Jan. 31, citing the criminal case in South Carolina.
The U.S. International Trade Commission determines anti-dumping fees. They can be assessed if the agency finds that an American industry is being hurt by "dumped" merchandise that is imported at less than the cost of making it.