Terence Ndangoh admits he used the Internet, an imaginary company and nonexistent supplies of frozen chicken feet to swindle a combined total of $166,000 from 13 wholesalers.
The Baton Rouge man, 25, has been in federal custody for seven months. Now, his admission will cost him another 14 months in federal prison.
Chicken feet sometimes are processed into animal feed in this country, but people in China and other Asian countries consider the crunchy items a dining delicacy.
In Baton Rouge, U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said in a written statement that Ndangoh made some lucrative sales, but “never fulfilled the orders or made arrangements to fulfill the orders.”
Indicted by a federal grand jury in May on seven counts of wire fraud, the Cameroon national signed a plea agreement in August and promised to assist investigators searching for his remaining assets. Ndangoh’s attorney, David Rozas, witnessed that agreement.
In return for Ndangoh’s guilty plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Lane Ewing Jr. dropped the other six counts of wire fraud from the indictment.
That indictment said Ndangoh sold chicken feet over the Internet under the name of Frozen Foods LLC, which was not licensed or registered in Louisiana.
He pleaded guilty to a charge that said he defrauded a buyer in July 2011 by having that buyer wire $15,066 from a California bank to a Baton Rouge account.
The scheme was probed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations along with the LSU Police, said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI’s New Orleans office, in a written statement.
On Wednesday, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Ndangoh to 21 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay restitution of $138,239 that has not yet been recovered for his bilked buyers.
Ndangoh is to receive credit for the seven months he has been in custody.
“China and Hong Kong have been the leading markets (for U.S.-produced chicken feet) for some time despite trade disputes in the last few years,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in March.
“Combined, China and Hong Kong account for 98 percent of” foreign demand for this nation’s chicken feet, the USDA said through its Agricultural Marketing Service.
The USDA added U.S. producers exported more than 350,000 tons of chicken feet in 2011.