A New York-based security products company and seven of its employees are being charged with fraud, money laundering and illegal importation of equipment manufactured in China.
Several U.S. agencies, including the FBI and the IRS, allege that Aventura Technologies Inc. falsely claimed that its products were made in the U.S. and also misrepresented itself as a woman-owned small business in order to gain access to federal contracts set aside for those businesses.
"Aventura imports its products from other manufacturers, primarily manufacturers located in [China], at times with false 'Made in the U.S.A.' labels already affixed to the products or displayed on their packaging," a Justice Department court filing said.
Officials say Aventura's actions endangered military personnel on U.S. Navy ships and military bases by selling them Chinese products with known cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
"Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney. "There is no mistaking the cyber vulnerabilities created when this company sold electronic surveillance products made in the People's Republic of China, and then using those items in our government agencies and the branches of our armed forces."
According to court documents, Aventura has held multiple contracts with the federal government, selling about $20.7 million of security equipment to the various military factions between 2006 to 2018. These contracts prohibited Aventura from providing goods from a wide array of countries, one of which is China.
Among the seven employees arrested is Jack Cabasso, Aventura's managing director, and his wife, Frances Cabasso, the purported CEO.
The couple is being accused of lying in order to extend and obtain government contracts reserved for women-owned businesses. The DOJ says Frances has little or no role at the company, making its claim as a woman-owned small business false.
The Cabassos are also being accused of siphoning millions of company dollars through shell companies and intermediaries. In addition, Aventura allegedly paid $1 million to fund the Cabasso's 70-foot luxury yacht.
Federal agents confiscated the yacht at the gated community where the couple live. Agents also seized $3 million dollars from several bank accounts.
The government intercepted shipments carrying Chinese manufactured goods several times, which agents later linked to Aventura's operations, according to the Justice Department.
Founded in 1999, Aventura self-describes itself as an "innovative designer, developer and manufacturer" of security products. The DOJ says the company has been misleading customers since 2006.
Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR's Newsdesk.