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Pakistani ringleader of ‘Buy American’ scam linked to Miami sentenced to 10 years in prison

Five businessmen convicted of exploiting a "Buy American" program to fleece tens of millions of dollars from U.S. medical and food suppliers in a global racket were sent to prison Monday in Miami federal court. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 18, 2019

Five businessmen convicted of exploiting a “Buy American” program to fleece tens of millions of dollars from U.S. medical and food suppliers in a global racket were sent to prison Monday in Miami federal court.

Ringleader Bryamji Javat, a Pakistani who headed Dubai-based Uniworld Group, received a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to a wire-fraud conspiracy that enabled him and his associates in South Florida and other parts of the United States to profit off the sale of discounted American products under a government program promoting the domestic economy.

The goods were supposed to be sold to the U.S. military overseas and its allies in Afghanistan, but were actually diverted to retail buyers in the United States to maximize profits between 2014 and 2017, according to federal prosecutors.

In some instances, Javat’s network shipped the discounted medical and food supplies overseas but then brought them back to the United States to sell at inflated prices, using fabricated package labels to disguise the illegal enterprise.

The fraud loss to the U.S. “victim companies” that sold the supplies at a discount to Javat’s network under the federally subsidized Buy American program totaled about $60 million, prosecutors said.

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“Simply put, Javat did not perpetrate any ordinary fraud scheme, but used the United States military and the people of Afghanistan to scam his victims, showing no care for the impact of his lies on consumers, or manufacturers, or the goodwill of the military, or the genuine reconstruction effort,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley wrote in court filing.

“He did not just lie about the goods’ destination, the so-called diversion, he lied about virtually everything in every pitch and negotiation,” Shipley argued, recommending a 20-year sentence for Javat.

Javat, represented by defense attorney Howard Srebnick, was given half that much time in prison by U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks. He also ordered Javat to pay a fine of $150,000. He must also pay a forfeiture judgment to the U.S. government and restitution to various American companies, but the total amount will be decided at a future hearing.

Javat and three other associates in his ring pleaded guilty this summer, while one associate, Luis Soto, a customs broker from Miami, was convicted of the wire-fraud conspiracy and related charges at trial in August. On Monday, Soto was sent to prison for six years and ordered to pay a forfeiture of $100,000.

Sunil Chopra and William Armando, both of California, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to obtain preretail medical products worth $5,000 or more by fraud or deception and were sentenced to just over two years and one and a half years in prison, respectively. Emanuel Daskos, of Hallandale Beach, also pleaded guilty to the same charge and received two years’ probation. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine, $501,304 in restitution and forfeit $18,536.

The final and sixth defendant, James Sipprell, of Georgia, is awaiting trial. He was the CEO of International Medical Distributors, Inc. and Infinity Medical, Inc., which were listed as U.S.-associated companies of Javat’s Uniworld Group.

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© 2019 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.