A high-ranking operative of the Turkish government in the US who was served with a criminal complaint by the US district attorney in New Jersey two years ago is scheduled to be sentenced on December 14. This follows his admission of guilt in a multi-million dollar conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods and his entry into a plea agreement, as revealed in recent filings related to the case.
Israfil Demir, the former deputy chair of the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), an organization that advocates for the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in the US, pled guilty before Judge Georgette Castner on August 9, 2023 to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods.
The docket additionally indicates that a plea agreement was concluded in the case the same day.
On May 26, 2021 Israfil Demir faced a criminal complaint, leading to his subsequent arrest. Law enforcement executed search warrants for both his residence and business premises as part of the investigation.
His guilty plea signifies an acknowledgment of his involvement in a conspiracy to traffic counterfeit computer networking devices, violating US law. According to documents submitted to the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, Demir and his associates established and ran multiple entities engaged in the sale of counterfeit computer networking equipment including devices manufactured by Cisco Systems Inc.
Case information about Israfil Demir:demir.information
Demir, along with associates Musa Karaman and Sadri Özturan, promoted the counterfeit Cisco products as authentic and new, despite there being counterfeit devices obtained from various international suppliers at prices significantly below market rates. Their deceptive practices included the use of fictitious names on customs documents, creating invoices that falsely appeared to be from a legitimate US distributor and engaging in discussions among themselves on methods to evade detection by US authorities. They amassed substantial profits through this fraudulent scheme.
Demir faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million since trafficking in counterfeit goods is punishable under US law. Following his guilty plea, he further executed a waiver of indictment, signifying that he voluntarily relinquished his right to be formally charged with a crime through a grand jury indictment.
The sentence Demir will receive on December 14 remains to be seen. The sentencing hearing will provide more clarity on the consequences of his guilty plea in the trafficking of counterfeit goods case.
Despite being charged by criminal complaint in 2021 by US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger of the US Attorney’s Office of the District of New Jersey, Demir has persisted in lobbying for the Erdogan government in the US. This involved engaging with members of the US Congress and local officials, including mayors and the governor of New Jersey, while also contributing to the groundwork for visits by Turkish officials, including President Erdogan himself.
Despite the anticipated sentencing following his guilty plea, it appears that Turkish government officials have not been dissuaded from utilizing him as an asset for influence operations in the US. The significance of his role is underscored by his seating next to Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, the former head of Turkish intelligence agency MIT, during the TASC Gala Dinner at Rockefeller Center Plaza on September 18.
This event coincided with President Erdogan’s visit to New York for the UN General Assembly, when he also attended the Gala Dinner as the keynote speaker. Demir was seated adjacent to Erdogan’s table, further highlighting the perceived value of his contributions to the Turkish government’s activities.
Demir’s social media profile suggests that he has cultivated connections with several high-ranking Turkish government officials, including Ibrahim Kalin, the current chief of Turkish intelligence. While not officially listed in the management of TASC on the organization’s website, Demir continues to conduct business on its behalf. In fact, some of the meetings he arranged with local American officials are credited by TASC in the organization’s communications on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Demir’s network of connections to the Erdogan government appears to be intricate and multi-layered. He previously served as leader of the youth branches of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the US, actively managing an election campaign for Erdogan and his party among the Turkish diaspora in the US. Additionally, from January 2019 to February 2020 Demir held the position of head of the youth branch of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), an Islamist business group known for its steadfast support of the Erdogan government.
Demir’s deception, fraud, and conspiracy were exposed through the collaborative efforts of the US Justice Department, the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Defense.
According to the complaint filed by a special agent from the US Department of Homeland Security, Demir, Karaman and Özturan were involved in the sale of counterfeit networking devices designed to falsely appear as if they were manufactured by Cisco Systems Inc., a prominent US technology conglomerate.
Despite receiving a warning from US Customs and facing repeated cease and desist orders from Cisco, the group persisted in importing counterfeit products from China. They went on to sell these products through Amazon Marketplace and their now-defunct website, https://www.techdatamarket.com/.
Demir, who used the fake name of David, formed and operated numerous business entities including MIS Enterprise LLC, a company that was set up in New Jersey on October 15, 2014, to sell electronic goods including counterfeit Cisco devices that he and his associates procured from various illicit suppliers based in China.
According to registry records, Karaman was president and Demir was general manager of MIS Enterprise. Other Turks associated with the company are environmental health safety engineer Murat Şahinler, e-commerce specialist Gülşen Satır and purchasing representative Efe Arslangiray.
In May 2021 federal agents executed a search warrant at a Woodland Park, New Jersey, warehouse used by Karaman and his co-conspirators as their business headquarters and discovered thousands of counterfeit Cisco devices, including 7,260 counterfeit Cisco transceivers with a total manufacturer’s suggested retail price of approximately $13.77 million.
According to Cisco, this was one of the largest volumes of counterfeit Cisco transceivers ever seized in the US, with the total value of the seized counterfeit Cisco transceivers unprecedented.
Demir and his associates had continued to trade in counterfeit products despite the fact that US Customs and Border Protection seized approximately $3.8 million in counterfeit Cisco products contained in over 20 shipments sent by suppliers in China between September 2017 and May 2021 and sent notices to the company.
In order to avoid detection at Customs, Demir used multiple fake names and various delivery locations. In one instance he used his wife’s name as the recipient of an import from China. The main location for storing the goods was the warehouse in New Jersey.
The criminal complaint against Demir and his associates is extremely detailed, with officers from Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Defense, US Customs and Border Protection and the Port of New York/Newark detailing their illegal activities. Email and WhatsApp communications were intercepted and included in the complaint to support the charges.
The Gmail account used by Demir and reviewed by investigators after securing a search warrant showed that Demir was frequently placing orders and inquiring about prices for counterfeit products with suppliers in China.
Several emails also showed a complaint from a customer in the US who bought a Cisco product from Demir and realized it was counterfeit. In response Demir claimed the product was genuine and even sent a forged invoice bearing the Cisco logo to convince the buyer. He also told his supplier in China to be careful and to make changes that would result in the counterfeit goods appearing more genuine. The banking records revealed that Demir and his associates had wired $1.2 million to buy counterfeit products from China.
The WhatsApp communications among Demir, Karaman and a third person revealed that they knew they were in trouble when the shipments were sized by the US Customs. Yet Demir was pushing to continue because he said “all the money that we make comes from Cisco.” In the same group chat Demir and Karaman are seen discussing how to overcome problems at Amazon Marketplace when a Cisco listing was removed after a buyer’s complaint. They generated a fake Cisco invoice from an authorized Cisco distributor and sent it to Amazon to re-list the product.
The Pentagon is also involved in the investigation because Cisco systems are used in a number of applications by US government, military and other critical infrastructure. Robert S. Pinches, the special agent with Homeland Security Investigations who filed the complaint, said that “sensitive and important functions performed by the government, as well as both public and private-sector entities, rely on the performance of high-quality networking products. These functions are endangered by lower quality counterfeits.”
MIS Enterprise was not authorized to sell Cisco products; yet the company owners set up an account with a major CISCO distributor in Pennsylvania to make it appear that they were legitimate although they never ordered any CISCO equipment from the distributor. Instead, they turned to five suppliers in China and Hong Kong to import counterfeit devices and sell them in the US as genuine products.
US investigators had CISCO verify the counterfeits by sending samples from seized products owned and imported by MIS Enterprise. In August 2020 investigators also ordered a CISCO product from the company’s Amazon storefront to further verify the criminal activity. The fake CISCO product was advertised for $1,455.52, when a genuine suggested retail price was $12,793.30. The product was analyzed by CISCO and found to be counterfeit as well.
Complaint shows details of the conspiracy:karaman.complaint_0