UK gang arrested for exporting $10 million of fake Cisco gear to US

Companies using fake gear could experience significant network outages, the U.K. police warned

Three men accused of selling and exporting over $10 million worth of fake Cisco networking equipment into the U.S. have been arrested by U.K. police.

The men are believed to have imported and exported counterfeit Cisco equipment through a company website and telesales. The arrests, made last week by the U.K. Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), were announced Thursday.

"Last week's action saw PIPCU dismantle a criminal gang suspected of cheating the computer industry out of millions of pounds," said PIPCU Detective Inspector Mick Dodge, in a statement. Using counterfeit products could also seriously harm businesses that use them, since company network integrity could be compromised and significant network outages could occur, Dodge said.

Between December 2012 and April this year 40 shipments of suspected counterfeit Cisco products believed to have been sent from the suspects' business in the U.K. to the U.S. were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, PIPCU said. The U.K. police has worked closely with U.S. Customs, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and Cisco's Global Brand Protection to investigate the case.

Two of the men, 35 and 36 years old, respectively, were arrested at their homes in Sawbridgeworth and Birchanger. The third man, who is 38 years old, was arrested at his place of work in Bishops Stortford. During searches, counterfeit Cisco equipment with an estimated value of more than $1 million was seized, the police said.

The police did not reveal the names of the men, and declined to give details about the counterfeit products. A Cisco spokeswoman also declined to reveal more details about the counterfeit products, citing the ongoing investigation.

Law enforcement has been cracking down on the sales of fake Cisco gear for years. In 2011 for instance, two people were convicted in the U.S. for importing and selling counterfeit Cisco-branded networking equipment. And in 2010, a Chinese man was sentenced to a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for trafficking in counterfeit Cisco Systems gear.

U.S. and Canadian law enforcement have been targeting the illegal importation and sale of counterfeit network hardware such as routers, switches and network cards from China since 2005.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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