Fake Cisco Equipment Trafficker Gets Prison Sentence, Must Pay $100 Million

Many of the products damaged users’ networks and operations.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

May 3, 2024

4 Min Read
Fake Cisco equipment
Inked Pixels/Shutterstock

A judge has sentenced a Florida resident and dual citizen of the United States and Turkey to six-and-a-half years in prison for running a massive operation trafficking fake Cisco equipment.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Onur Aksoy, 40, agreed to pay restitution of $100 million to Cisco and amounts to other victims that the court will determine at a later date. He must also destroy millions of dollars' worth of fake Cisco equipment seized from his businesses.

Aksoy pleaded guilty last June to conspiring with others to traffic in counterfeit goods and to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Aksoy sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit computer networking equipment that ended up in U.S. hospitals, schools and highly sensitive military and other governmental systems, including platforms supporting sophisticated U.S. fighter jets and military aircraft, said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

“Criminals who flood the supply chain with low-quality networking equipment from China and Hong Kong harm U.S. businesses, pose serious health and safety risks, and compromise national security,” she said. “This case, one of the largest counterfeit trademark cases ever prosecuted in the United States, demonstrates the criminal division’s commitment and capacity to prosecute the most complex counterfeiting schemes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Fake Cisco Equipment Sold by Pro Network Entities 

According to court documents and statements made in court, Aksoy ran at least 19 companies formed in New Jersey and Florida, as well as approximately 15 Amazon storefronts and at least 10 eBay storefronts (collectively, the Pro Network Entities). The Pro Network Entities imported from suppliers in China and Hong Kong tens of thousands of low-quality, modified computer networking devices with counterfeit Cisco labels, stickers, boxes, documentation and packaging, all bearing counterfeit trademarks registered and owned by Cisco that made the goods falsely appear to be new, genuine and high-quality — manufactured and authorized by Cisco. The devices had an estimated total retail value of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Pro Network Entities generated more than $100 million in revenue from the scheme, and Aksoy personally received millions of dollars.

The devices the Pro Network Entities imported from China and Hong Kong were typically older, lower-model products, some of which had been sold or discarded, which Chinese counterfeiters then modified to appear to be genuine versions of new, enhanced and more expensive Cisco devices. The Chinese counterfeiters often added pirated Cisco software and unauthorized, low-quality or unreliable components, including components to circumvent technological measures added by Cisco to the software to check for software-license compliance and to authenticate the hardware.

Fake Equipment Caused Significant Damage

The fake Cisco equipment suffered from numerous performance, functionality and safety problems, according to the Justice Department. The products often failed to operate or otherwise malfunctioned, causing significant damage to their users’ networks and operations.

Between 2014 and 2022, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized about 180 shipments of counterfeit Cisco devices that were sent to Pro Network Entities from China and Hong Kong. Aksoy responded to some of these seizures by falsely submitting official paperwork to CBP under an alias, an identity that he used to communicate with Chinese co-conspirators. To try to avoid CBP scrutiny, Chinese co-conspirators broke the shipments up into smaller parcels sent on different days, and Aksoy used fake delivery addresses in Ohio.

Between 2014 and 2019, Cisco sent seven letters to Aksoy asking him to cease and desist his trafficking of counterfeit goods. Aksoy responded to at least two of these letters by instructing his attorney to provide Cisco with forged documents. In July 2021, agents executed a search warrant at Aksoy’s warehouse that led to the seizure of more than 1,100 counterfeit Cisco devices with a retail value of $7 million.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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