SWAT team officers discover they have been using counterfeit body armor from China

Akron PD by is licensed under YouTube
AKRON, OH - Officers with the SWAT team for the Akron Police Department (APD) have reportedly been using counterfeit body armor, which is a major problem since they often depend on that gear to save their lives.

Captain Agostino Micozzi with APD discussed the issue with the Akron City Council, saying, "We became a part of a bigger investigation. We were notified by the Department of Homeland Security that the plates that we had were some of those plates that were found to be counterfeit and so as a result of that, we need to replace them." APD has asked the city to urgently help them purchase 40 sets of protective shields for the SWAT team. 

A press release dated October 19, 2023, from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that they were investigating counterfeit body armor that was imported from China and sold to law enforcement agencies across the country.

According to News5Clevland, in November 2023, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) wrote on X, "#PUBLICSAFETYALERT - If you have purchased ShotStop Ballistics LLC body armor from 2018 onward, for product safety reasons, we recommend discontinuing use and contacting faultyarmor@hsi.dhs.go. This is an ongoing #HSICleveland investigation, no further info is available."

The body armor in questions does not meet the standard set forth by the National Institute of Justice. On May 6th, Captain Micozzi requested funding from the town's city council to have the counterfeit plates replaced. He said, "They are a hard ceramic type of plate, and there's one on the front, one on the back and one on each side. To protect them from rifle rounds and more dangerous things, so those are the things that we are replacing with this request."

APD purchased the plates from ShotStop Ballistics LLC in Stow. BBB Akron confirmed that the shop was an accredited business from September 2018 to December 2023. Tim Dimoff, a national law enforcement procedures and security expert said, "When you're on the SWAT team and you're doing high-risk response situations it's extremely important that you have the best equipment, and the equipment that has no chance of failure."

Anything less than high-quality equipment could very well leave officers under-protected. Dimoff added, "Equipment can be made in other parts of the United States, but mostly overseas it's being made because someone is trying to reduce the cost of that equipment but in favor of a higher probability of not meeting our standards."

Court documents indicate that ShotSpot Ballistics LLC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on May 4th, citing $642,200 owed to debtors. Micozzi said, "Somewhere down the line, there may be an opportunity for restitution on this, so we will be pursuing that, and we will be following it very closely." However, as of right now, the replaced gear is what is most important. Each set of plates cost $1,300 and 40 sets are required to outfit the entire SWAT team. The total cost to replace the counterfeit gear is $52,000. Akron City Council unanimously approved the urgent request. 

According to the New York Post, this is not the first time that there has been an issue with a local company selling counterfeit body armor made in China and passing it off as being sold in the U.S. In 2021, a Texas man pleaded guilty to selling "Chinese-made military helmets, body armor, and other products" to the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies while passing them off as U.S.-made gear. 

That individual, 32-year-old Tanner Jackson, owner of Top Body Armor, faced up to 20 years in prison for this crime. He ended up pleaded guilty to a lesser wire fraud charge and was sentenced to 33 months in prison. 

In March of this year, a Washington State man also faced a long prison sentence for "knowingly and intentionally marketing and selling low-quality ballistic protective equipment produced in China to dozens of domestic law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military."

That individual, 42-year-old Jeffrey Meining, owner of BulletProof-IT, falsely claimed his gear, including ballistic helmets, shields, and plates were made in the U.S. when in fact, they were purchased from a Chinese company. Some of those items went as far back as December 2017. He also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison and three years of supervised release. 

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