Busted! Fake FRC Seller Charged by US Attorney

Back in March of 2018 we used this space to alert you to a rising trend of counterfeit flame resistant clothing (FRC). As we told you then, unscrupulous dealers were creating non-FR replicas of name-brand garments and selling them as FRC – thereby putting wearers at grave risk for injury, or even death.

Unfortunately, since then this practice has not been eliminated, but rather has become more sophisticated and brazen. This is evidenced by a story reported by WPRI Eyewitness News in Providence Rhode Island.

The WPRI report revealed that a man named Ramin Kohanbash is facing federal charges, including wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods related to a scheme to sell misrepresented clothing and uniforms to U.S. Military. Among the victims of Kohanbash’s fraud was the Rhode Island National Guard, leading to the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney in Rhode Island.

According to the court filings, Kohanbash, the owner of a New Jersey-based company called California Surplus, purchased samples of legitimate military uniforms, then sent them to China where low-cost reproductions were manufactured. Kohanbash then sold the phony garments to U.S. suppliers, who in turn, sold them to military.

According to prosecutors, Kohanbash had his Chinese partners reproduce the labels of legitimate manufacturers to sew into the fakes. He also had them add labels claiming, for instance, thousands of counterfeit hoods were NFPA 2112 certified when the hoods actually offered no protection against flash fire hazards.

Kohanbash also used counterfeit trademarks and false Berry Amendment certification letters – which affirm that a uniform was made in the U.S. – to further his conspiracy. In all, it’s estimated that Kohanbash and his conspirators made approximately $20 million from the scheme.

Not only did Kohanbash’s fraud tarnish the names and reputations of the companies whose logos and trademarks he counterfeited, it put service members who believed they were wearing clothing that would protect them at risk. As a reminder of just how much risk counterfeit FRC can mean, take a look at the video below.

So how can you protect yourself and make sure the FR garments you’re buying actually provide you with the flame-resistant protection you need? Here are a few easy steps you can take to help ensure your safety:

  1. First and foremost, if a deal seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. If you conduct a search, and receive results priced at $10 through $50, for instance, you can be pretty sure the $10 item is not going to provide you with reliable FR protection regardless of whether it’s being presented as “name-brand” FRC. As described in the story above, unscrupulous fraudsters won’t hesitate to add counterfeit logos to their fake products.
  2. Check out the seller. All major manufacturers of true FR clothing carefully vet the companies they allow to sell their products. If the seller offering low-cost FR clothing seems to be little more than an email address, and does not have a professional website or offer a warranty or returns process, it’s unlikely that they are an authorized seller of legitimate FRC.
  3. Check the ratings. Most major retail sites allow users to rate their purchases. If you find multiple comments suggesting the item is not genuine FRC, stay away.

At Tyndale, our number one concern is worker safety. Whether you choose to buy your FRC from us or someone else, please use caution and the suggestions above to make sure you’re really getting the protection you need to stay safe on the job.

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