CHICAGO One of five men accused in an alleged scheme to avoid duties on aluminum imported from China has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico.
Carlos Minguela-Ortiz, an accountant for Mayaguez, Puerto Rico-based Sultana Screens & Aluminum Sales Inc. and Arecibo, Puerto Rico-based PRP Trading Corp., two firms said to have been involved in the alleged evasion, waived his right to appear at an arraignment hearing and has been released on $25,000 bond, according to court documents.
Minguela-Ortiz not quilty plea comes after he was arrested on one count each of smuggling, money laundering and wire fraud (amm.com, June 25
Kendys Pimentel-Soto, Minguela-Ortizs attorney, declined to comment June 26.
Attempts to contact the other defendants or their attorneys were unsuccessful.
Arraignment hearings have been scheduled for three others involved in the case who have been charged with smuggling and money laundering.
Armando García-Vázquez, vice president of PRP and chief financial officer of Sultana, is scheduled to be arraigned June 26 in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico. Arraignment hearings for PRP president Edrick García-Vázquez and Samuel Garcia-Adarme, owner of Sultana and vice president of Ponce, Puerto Rico-based Aluwest Industries Inc., have been postponed to July 8 to give the defendants time to find legal representation.
All three have been released on $50,000 bonds, according to court documents.
William Tang Piu Wong, owner of AGI Trading Corp., Wellington, Fla., was arrested on June 24 and was released after his wife posted a $150,000 bond, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Florida. Wong is accused of facilitating the imports.
Prosecutors allege that García-Adarme, Edrick García-Vázquez, Armando García-Vázquez and Minguela-Ortiz, in their positions as owners or principals of Sultana, Aluwest and PRP Trading and with the help of Wong, bought aluminum from China and transhipped it through Malaysia.
The material was then repackaged, false invoices created to suggest it came from Malaysia, and then the metal was exported to Puerto Rico, they said.
The alleged scheme was an effort to avoid paying $26.7 million in antidumping and countervailing duties that would have been imposed on the Chinese material, prosecutors said, according to court documents. The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.