Why is it important: It’s no secret that China is the main source of counterfeit equipment in the world. For almost a decade, one man has been selling a huge number of fake Cisco systems to unsuspecting customers looking for a good deal on expensive networking equipment. This type of fraud can have serious economic consequences if used to power critical infrastructure.

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This week the federal grand jury accused Florida man for allegedly selling over $1 billion worth of fake Cisco networking equipment to several individuals, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and even the military.

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Nash “Ron” Aksoy, 38, was selling counterfeit equipment from suppliers in China and Hong Kong, according to the Justice Department. Specifically, it imported tens of thousands of devices through at least 19 entities registered in New Jersey and Florida, collectively dubbed the “Pro Network”.

Aksoy sold products through multiple storefronts on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and others. His operation allegedly generated over $100 million in revenue, of which several million were pocketed by the CEO of Pro Network and used for personal gain.

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The devices mentioned were old, inexpensive Cisco systems that had previously been resold or discarded. Chinese counterfeiters have modified them with pirated Cisco software and “unauthorized, low-quality, or unreliable components,” essentially giving them the appearance of higher-end hardware. Vendors also shipped devices in original packaging with all labels, stickers, and Cisco documentation.

Aksoy’s customers mostly wanted a better price on machines that typically cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. As you might expect, the hardware often crashed, malfunctioned, and performed well below what was expected. Over time, this has raised the cost of ownership well above the original acquisition cost.

Cisco sent several cease and desist letters to Aksoy, but on several occasions his lawyer provided fake invoices. Between 2014 and 2022, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized about 180 shipments of counterfeit Cisco systems bound for Pro Network. However, Aksoy allegedly returned some of these seizures by submitting forged documents under a pseudonym. He eventually worked with his suppliers to break down shipments into smaller batches, hoping to avoid further scrutiny.

On June 29, the Department of Homeland Security filed an application. application for initiation of criminal proceedings in New Jersey, leading to Aksoy’s arrest in Miami on the same day. If you suspect that you or your organization may have been one of his clients, you may check here a list of various companies and stores that have been used to sell counterfeit Cisco systems.

Companies like Amazon have tried border selling fake products on their platforms for many years, albeit with limited success. customs officers seized counterfeit consumer goods in 2021 in record numbers, especially small items such as wearables.

Head credit: Johannes Weber