back to article Florida man (not that one) sold $100M-plus in counterfeit network gear

A 39-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling hundreds of millions of dollars of counterfeit Cisco gear to unsuspecting schools, hospitals, government agencies, and the military. According to the US Justice Department, between 2013 and 2022 Onur Aksoy, based in Miami, founded at least 19 companies in New Jersey …

  1. Dimmer Bronze badge

    And. ….

    Cisco - “ oh, did you want ALL the ports turned on? Sorry did the sales person not tell you there will be a bit of an extra charge to actually use it?”

    1. Mayday Silver badge

      Re: And. ….

      Funny you should mention that. Some line cards (real Cisco, not fake) can't do full line-rate unless you effectively disable a number of ports on the card.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And. ….

        RFP Questions / Responses:

        MACsec support: ( X ) Yes ( ) No

        SyncE support: ( X ) Yes ( ) No

        Real life:

        MACsec and SyncE support on the same physical port: ( ) Yes ( ) No ( X ) We never said that!

        Based on a true story.

        1. Mayday Silver badge
          IT Angle

          Re: And. ….

          Looks like we can do both now, on one platform at least. Haven’t been bothered to see if this is a general release across all hardware platforms or not. Could be hardware/ASIC dependant.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And. ….

            Thanks, but as you say it’s extremely hardware dependant, combined with software maturity. We have support for both on ONE of the four models we’re deploying; partial support (i.e. support for both on a limited number of ports) is supposedly coming on one or two of the others in later versions of IOS-XR. If they can get all the bugs worked out, that is.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

    Almost sounds like a good deal, even if found guilty and sent to jail.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

      You missed the "and pay restitution to his customers". That has several possible levels of bad: refunds (or supply genuine Cisco equipment) and pay for losses caused by the stuff he did supply. The obvious dodge is to declare bankruptcy to zero out the debt and move on. That means parting with 100% of the money he says he still has. If he has stashed some away and the law finds any of it then his plea bargain agreement is null and void. The money gets taken and he gets sentenced fully for everything he admitted to plus anything else the US Justice Department can prove.

      Lying on a plea bargain agreement to keep some of your stash means completing the custodial sentence then fleeing to a non-extradition country - that will probably detain you until you hand over most of your stash. There are more realistic plans, like living it up until you get caught then honestly handing everything over in the bankruptcy. Afterwards you cannot be a director of a company but you can restart the business with some new names and some forged documents. You could try emigrating before the law knows for sure you are guilty. You may well get fleeced less on arrival at your non-extradition hellhole if there is not an outstanding warrant with your name and photo.

      I would try pointing evidence at someone terminally ill. Actually pay their medical expenses. Funnel some of the money from an account in scapegoat's name to your faith healing charity (religious scammers have very strong protection under US law). If the timing works out that leaves the Justice Department interrogating a corpse.

      1. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

        I'm not sure you can declare bankruptcy from court ordered payments?

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

          I am not a bankruptcy lawyer but it looks like you are completely right, certainly for personal bankruptcy with no significant income. I found this surprising because the bankruptcy I read most about was The SCO Group. TSG was guilty of conversion (fraudulently keeping money collected on behalf of Novell). The court appointed trustee kept right on collecting Novell's money and spent it on legal research with the judge's law firm. This continued until the money dried up then the trustee broke up the business and sold non-existent parts of it to credulous wanna-be scammers. Looks like my misunderstanding is based on what bankruptcy courts can get away with and not laws that apply to normal people.

      2. Andy Tunnah

        Re: Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

        Anything you can come up with in the time it takes to write a comment on the internet, *the real investigators who do this for a living have already thought of it*

    2. myxiplx2

      Re: Makes $100M, pays $15M fine

      He sold $100m of hardware, he didn't make $100m, even criminals don't make 100% profit margins. He had to buy the goods, pay for shipping, packing, handling, etc...

  3. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Serious flaws were found in the fake equipment

    because it was found *not* to be spying for Cisco and its masters.

  4. Paul Herber Silver badge

    ' However, it wasn't until last June (2021) that Aksoy was arrested and charged'

    Why wait 7 years to arrest him when some heinous crime like, say, littering will get you arrested immediately?

    1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

      Because the cops are too busy arresting people who drop litter. Easy 'crime' solved. Numbers look good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yea, littering is an easier crime to prove. Especially if you got twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          "Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it."

          "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage."

          1. Paul Herber Silver badge

            So many people will fail to understand what this is all about. Including Alice.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Which makes this "the Justice Department claims Aksoy did little to hide his activities" deeply ironic. Who else did little during that period?

  5. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The lowest bidder strikes again

    At some point you would think that purchasing departments would be suspicious of a vendor bidding on a purchase order for too little. You then have to realize that the purchasing agents and contract managers are government employees whose degree's are in __________ Studies rather than anything actually useful and can never be fired, but are rewarded by "saving' the most money. When those bargains turn out to be fraudulent, they don't have to give up the bonuses, so no downside.

    It doesn't take too much shopping to understand what things sell for. There will always be vendors that charge enormous prices for things, but still make some sales by having the items in stock and can courier said item the same day. Anybody selling for much less than average is either selling stolen gear or it's counterfeit, B-stock, refurbed/remanufactured, etc. Every once in a while somebody will just be liquidating overstock or working from their parent's basement and not passing along VAT/Sales Tax, but that's not that common.

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

      That's the thing with selling fraudulent stuff, you don't have to sell it for ridiculously low prices - just low enough to seem like a great deal, whilst also seeming like a realistic price. So, take market prices, and drop them by 15%, and then say to customers you have a load of stock as another customer cancelled their order etc.

      People generally do balk at pricing that is too low.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

        Depends where you shop.

        If a market place is so thoroughly infested with scammers that they have to compete with each other then you can order a fake 16TB SSD for $46. The price has recently gone up from $35 because of an Ars Technica article made cost competitive fakes unavailable from Amazon - for now.

    2. Ace2 Silver badge

      Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

      Many government purchasing agents are required by law to accept the lowest bid. If they can’t be disqualified under the rules (real company, nit previously banned, etc.), they will get the bid, no matter how suspicious.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

        Is that actually the case? In many cases, it's actually "best value for money" but in finest Cover Your Own Arse mode, that's almost always switched to "lowest price/bidder" for any number of reasons not limited to "I don't understand the product so will buy the cheapest" and "The more I save, the bigger my bonus".

      2. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

        In the UK, the legal requirement is "best value". Which often means lowest bid, but doesn't legally mean that.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

          "In the UK, the legal requirement is "best value"."

          Nobody is taught what 'value' is anymore and it's a very subjective concept to begin with. If you need a tyre for your car, paying 20% over nominal pricing could be a great value if you can have it fitted right now instead of in 3 days when another discount shop can have it from the warehouse. I'm willing to sacrifice quality for price on a tool that I'll use once or twice and then use to conduct toolbox/tool rust studies. If that cheap tool does the job, there's value. On the flip side, a socket set that I'm going to use a lot is a better value if it's of high quality even if it's twice the cost of the Asian import. When I had a manufacturing company, I had to weigh all of the variables all of the time. It would be pointless to spend 40 hours trying to find a savings of a few pence on some o-rings when by paying those few p more is offset by having a local vendor that will keep a month's supply on hand as a buffer. The value calculation outcome, for me, is to support the local vendor.

          I have no idea how a government mob is going to define what "best value" means in the real world when people are taught by Walmart that the lowest price is the best value.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

      Governments, from local to federal, at least in the U.S. are forced, BY LAW, to accept the lowest bid.

      1. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: The lowest bidder strikes again

        I think there's some rather large caveats to that. Such as the bids having to come from a suitable bidder (eg. it would be reasonable for a bid to be rejected if the bidder was a company on the verge of bankruptcy, or has major cashflow issues). Also, things like ensuring the bid matches the requirements - often the lowest bid doesn't tick all the boxes.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    Old saying!

    Nobody every got fired for buying Cicso... But sounds lots of people got burned!!

    1. Rob - Denmark

      Re: Old saying!

      Technically, a lot of them didn't buy Cisco.

  7. martinusher Silver badge

    Damaging networks?

    That sounds like some prosecutor hamming things up a bit.**

    The worst that could happen is "it doesn't work" or "it floods the network with crap"..

    I'd be interested to find out how much of this counterfeit gear was Linksys type -- commodity components.

    (**Yes, its possible it could put mains voltage on the network ports. Just unlikely. The stuff would have to work well enough for people to not immediately notice its bad.)

    1. Fred Daggy Silver badge

      Re: Damaging networks?

      Cisco are now on our "never ever, even if there is no alterative to the universe ending" list.

      Aggressive audit. Nothing ever works full speed, or just doesn't work at all. Nickel dime for every feature that you would think are standard.

      Much happier and much saner with another company's equipment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Damaging networks?

        "Nickel dime for every feature that you would think are standard."

        Back in another millennium, I sometimes did speed tests as a normal part of turning up a new circuit. Since the telco didn't want a random server or an issue with my network to be the bottleneck, they'd have me do a tftp transfer between my router and theirs.

        What's an appropriately sized (and readily available) file to transfer when testing out a bonded pair of T1 lines? How about the system image for the router?

        Since the telco wasn't particularly careful about cleaning up their directory, I got a few versions of ios with some bonus features for our 3640 and 2501 routers. Of course, the boss couldn't quite understand that just because a pair of 2501s looked identical didn't mean they could both run the same features (when you cheaped out and didn't max out flash and RAM on one of them).

        To the C&W techs that left "extra" images laying around, thank you for your service. Made my life much easier.

    2. Andy Tunnah

      Re: Damaging networks?

      Did you just skip over the bit where they mention them catching fire ? Knock off electronics are notorious for it.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Damaging networks?

        When he heard a problem then maybe he just sent the users to a post on TokTik and FaseBook that says that it's not a problem ...

        No this is not a joke, this is just today's fraud environment - all of today's posts just react to this event, nobody's surprised are they?

  8. Binraider Silver badge

    This is a rather tame one by the standards of the world's worst superhero!

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    He made 100 million

    ...while honest small business vendors struggle.

    But then, the customers only saw the low, low prices and saw nothing out of place.

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