Florida Man Arrested For Selling Fake Cisco Device To U.S. Military

Onur Aksoy, a forty-year-old resident of Florida and dual citizen of Turkey and the United States, was found guilty of running a large-scale, multi-year fraud scheme to traffic in fake and counterfeit Cisco networking equipment.

The counterfeit computer networking equipment that Aksoy sold for hundreds of millions of dollars found its way into extremely sensitive military and other governmental systems, hospitals, schools, and platforms supporting advanced U.S. fighter jets and military aircraft.

Low-quality networking equipment from China and Hong Kong is flooded into the supply chain by criminals, endangering American companies, endangering public health and safety, and compromising national security.

“This case—one of the largest counterfeit trademark cases ever prosecuted in the United State— demonstrates the Criminal Division’s commitment and capacity to prosecute the most complex counterfeiting schemes and bring the perpetrators to justice”, said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

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Aksoy Established One Of The World’s Largest Counterfeit-Trafficking Operations

The Department of Justice stated that Aksoy established and managed one of the biggest counterfeit-trafficking enterprises ever through a complex, multi-year plan.

His operation brought tens of thousands of low-quality, counterfeit devices trafficked from China into the U.S. supply chain, endangering users in the public and private sectors.

According to court records and evidence, Aksoy operated at least 19 firms registered in Florida and New Jersey, along with around 15 Amazon storefronts and at least 10 eBay stores (collectively, the Pro Network Entities).

Tens of thousands of low-quality, modified computer networking devices with fake Cisco labels, stickers, boxes, documentation, and packaging were imported by Pro Network Entities from suppliers in China and Hong Kong.

These devices were all covered in counterfeit trademarks that were registered and owned by Cisco, giving the false impression that the goods were brand-new, authentic, and high-quality devices made and approved by Cisco.

The devices were valued at hundreds of millions of dollars at retail.

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Through the fraud, the Pro Network Entities made over $100 million in revenue, and Aksoy personally made millions of dollars.

Chinese counterfeiters altered the equipment that the Pro Network Entities imported from China and Hong Kong to look like authentic copies of new, improved, and more costly Cisco equipment.

These devices were usually older, lower-model goods, some of which had been sold or thrown away.

Such components sometimes included ways to get around technological safeguards Cisco applied to the software to verify hardware authenticity and check for compliance with software licenses. 

Products that were sold by the Pro Network Entities that were fraudulent or counterfeit had multiple issues with performance, operation, and safety.

The items frequently malfunctioned or failed to function at all, seriously harming the networks and operations of its users.

Governmental organizations, schools, and hospitals were among the clients of Aksoy’s products. The U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force also detected the devices in both combat and non-combat operations.

These activities included platforms that supported the F-15, F-18, and F-22 fighter jets, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted about 180 shipments of fake Cisco devices from China and Hong Kong to the Pro Network Entities between 2014 and 2022.

In response to a few of these seizures, Aksoy gave fake reports to CBP using the fictitious name “Dave Durden,” which he also used to speak with other Chinese conspirators.

Cisco wrote seven letters to Aksoy between 2014 and 2019, pleading with him to stop dealing in fake goods. In response to at least two of these letters, Aksoy had his attorney send Cisco fake documentation.

Around 1,156 counterfeit Cisco gadgets worth over $7 million were seized by agents in July 2021 after they carried out a search warrant at Aksoy’s warehouse.

The Sentencing

Aksoy was given a six-year, six-month prison sentence for managing a massive, multi-year scheme to traffic in fake and counterfeit Cisco networking equipment.

He agreed to the destruction of millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit items that were taken from his businesses, as well as to pay restitution of $100 million to Cisco and sums to other victims that would be decided by the court at a later time.

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Gurubaran is a co-founder of Cyber Security News and GBHackers On Security. He has 10+ years of experience as a Security Consultant, Editor, and Analyst in cybersecurity, technology, and communications.