HOUSTON — The federal judge overseeing a fraud trial against the former president of tire importer and distributor Winland International Inc. has delayed their trial again, this time until Sept. 11.
The case, which dates from December 2020, was scheduled to go to trial Sept. 19, 2022, but was postponed then until Feb. 13. The case involves Winland International (d.b.a. Super Tire) and seven individuals, who are accused of being involved in an importing scheme designed to dodge millions of dollars in anti-dumping duties.
Attorneys for defendant Miranda Zhou petitioned the court in January for a delay due to case's complexity — involving eight defendants (six of whom are fugitives), extensive discovery, and a 15-page indictment alleging a complex conspiracy to evade customs duties.
"Competent preparation is requiring a deep look through this company's emails, as well as through exhaustive Customs import documentation in order to prepare a defense," counsel wrote.
Alfred H. Bennett, a U.S. district judge in the Federal Court, Southern District of Texas, granted the delay.
Zhao pleaded not guilty to the charges in a hearing on Dec. 16, 2020. She has surrendered her passport and posted bail.
Authorities allege in the government's case that the defendants avoided paying anti-dumping duties for approximately 10 years, from 2008 to 2018, on off-the-road, light vehicle and truck tires imported from China by falsifying invoices and records of tires they imported with the identities of Chinese tire companies that were subject to lower duties than the actual manufacturers.
Records also allegedly were falsified to understate the value of the tires, a move that also lowered the duties owed.
The U.S. attorney said at least $20.9 million worth of tires were involved and the U.S. missed out on more than $6.5 million in duties.
Others charged in the case include: Kun "Bruce" Liu, 40, of Sugar Land, Texas; and Qinghua "Shirley" Song, 44, of Jurupa Valley, Calif.; and Chinese residents Yue "Joanna" Peng, 42, Li "Cathy" Chen, 38, Xin "Devin" Zhang, age unknown, Shaohui "Jasper" Jia, 40, and Deng "David" Yongqiang, 36.
Liu was listed as a vice president of Winland; the others are listed as either employees of Chinese tire makers or agents of Winland.