GUAM BUSINESSMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO BRIBING CUSTOMS AGENT

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 16) - A Guam businessman pleaded guilty yesterday to bribing a Guam customs officer in exchange for bringing in fake goods to the island.

Hiro Hassaram Uttamchandani, also known as Tony Uttam, appeared in U.S. District Court with his attorney, Lawrence Teker, and entered the plea before Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.

Uttamchandani entered a guilty plea to count one of an indictment charging him with giving bribes to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds.

On Nov. 11, 2003, the defendant arrived at the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport on a flight from Hong Kong and attempted to bring into Guam about 1,800 items of consumer goods, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office release. The items bore counterfeit marks in such names as Polo, Versace, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein and Rolex, among other brand names.

The goods were confiscated by Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency officers. The defendant subsequently contacted a customs agent in an attempt to get the shipment of counterfeit brand-name merchandise, the release said.

Uttamchandani admitted that on or about Nov. 24, 2003, he gave a $5,000 bribe to a customs agent in an attempt to obtain the items, the release said.

He appeared calm yesterday as the judge asked him a list of questions including whether he understood the charges against him and whether he discussed the plea with his attorney.

When asked to enter a plea, Uttamchandani responded, "I plead guilty."

As part of the conditions of the plea agreement, Uttamchandani agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other federal officials.

Uttamchandani was indicted in December on charges of bribery and trafficking. He was scheduled to appear in the District Court twice before but the hearing was continued. Uttamchandani, who was in India when the indictment was handed down, had not appeared in court because he was sickly and needed to be in bed rest in India, Pacific Daily News files state.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 3 in the District Court. Uttamchandani faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and supervised release to be determined by the court, not to exceed three years and a $100 special assessment fee.

June 16, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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