Crime - Sacto 911

Owner of Citrus Heights firm accused of evading customs duties

A federal grand jury in Sacramento has returned a 27-count indictment against a Citrus Heights businessman, accusing him of evading customs duties owed by his import business.

The indictment, returned Thursday, charges Thomas Romeo, 51, of Sacramento with conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of entry of falsely classified goods and 11 counts of entry of goods by means of a false statement, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.

Romeo owned and operated Romeo & Juliette Inc., a company that imported footwear manufactured in China and distributed under the brand names BearPaw and Attix. According to the indictment, from at least 1994 through 2011, Romeo engaged in a scheme to avoid paying the full amount of duty owed on the shoes by having employees and others create false invoices that substantially undervalued the footwear that was being imported. The false invoices sometimes listed a value that was 50 percent of the actual value and sometimes less, authorities said.

Romeo allegedly had his employees submit the false invoices to U.S. Customs for purposes of calculating the customs duties and fees Romeo & Juliette was required to pay. He allegedly avoided paying approximately $5.6 million in customs duties that he legally owed.

The indictment alleges that during the investigation, Romeo submitted to federal agents a false document that attempted to justify the lower duty that his firm paid to the United States. He also is accused of instructing employees to make false statements to federal investigators about the value of the imported footwear.

The case resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.