Man pleads guilty to selling counterfeit vapes
A Texas man pleaded guilty today to selling counterfeit vape pens imported from China, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.
Christopher Andrew Reyes, 23, of The Colony, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to import drug paraphernalia.
“This defendant imported thousands of potentially dangerous black-market vaping devices,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “Given the alarming incidence of lung injuries stemming from unregulated THC vapes, we knew could not allow any more of these devices onto our streets.”
“The distribution of these black-market vaping devices is not only illegal, but could prove lethal to those who consume vape materials purchased from unregulated sources, said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Dallas. “These illicit items are a significant health threat in our communities and should not be available in the open market.”
According to court documents, Mr. Reyes admitted that he allowed employees of a vaping shop on Harry Hines Boulevard to order counterfeit THC vaping products online using his bank card. (Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive compound found in marijuana.)
In September 2019, U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents intercepted a shipment of 2,400 counterfeit THC vaping devices addressed to Mr. Reyes and bound for his home. The vaping devices, which were sent from China and routed through DFW International Airport, bore the counterfeit trademark of a popular THC vape brand, “Cookies.” Agents estimated that at least five additional shipments of vaping products had been sent to Mr. Reyes.
In plea papers, the defendant admitted that after receiving the packages, he sold the contents back to the vaping shop for profit. His bank statements, which show large purchases from Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba (an online retailer similar to Amazon), backed up his admissions.
Mr. Reyes now faces up to three years in federal prison. His sentencing is set for Thursday, Aug. 26.
Following a rash of lung injuries related to counterfeit vaping devices, the CDC urged the public to avoid THC-containing vapes, especially those purchased from unreliable online retailers. For more information, consult the CDC’s E-Cig FAQ.
Homeland Security Investigations and the Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Customs & Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phelesa Guy prosecuted the case alongside Trial Attorneys Patrick Runkle and Speare Hodges of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch.