Customs Broker Sentenced in a Fraud Scheme

On February 18, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the sentencing of a Long Island customs broker who defrauded a Massachusetts medical equipment distributor out of $1.2 million. 

Gregory Manuelian (Manuelian) of Manhasset, N.Y, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release and ordered to pay almost $1.2 million in restitution based on charges that he defrauded his client, B-K Medical Systems, by repeatedly submitting falsified customs documents indicating that B-K owed customs duties on goods that were actually duty-free. 

Manuelian operated Marquis Clearance, Ltd., a customs brokerage in Jamaica, N.Y. and served as B-K's customs broker since 1980. On B-K's goods entering the U.S., Manuelian ordinarily paid the duties and then faxed the invoices to the client. B-K reimbursed Manuelian for the duties and paid him a brokerage fee. In 1996, the U.S. Department of Commerce began to phase out the duties on the types of goods imported by B-K; by 1999, the imports of the goods imported by B-K were duty free. 

Throughout the duty phase-out program and when the imports became duty-free, Manuelian continued to bill its client for supposedly pre-paid duties on the equipment. To support the claims, Manuelian mailed its client falsified customs forms which showed a duty owed on the imported equipment, usually set at 5.3% of the equipment's value. By the time B-K discovered its loss in 2006, Manuelian had defrauded it out of approximately $1.2 million.