LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Chinese billionaire has been charged in Los Angeles in a complex scheme to avoid $1.8 billion in aluminum tariffs.

U.S. prosecutors said Wednesday that Zhongtian Liu, the founder of China Zhongwang Holdings Limited, and the aluminum company he previously headed, were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

An indictment says they schemed to disguise aluminum as pallets to avoid customs duties up to 400% that were imposed in 2011.

Prosecutors have sought to seize the aluminum stockpiled in Southern California warehouses.

Prosecutors say Liu and two co-defendants charged in the scheme are not in custody and are believed to be out of the U.S.

Messages seeking comment from China Zhongwang, a publicly traded company based in Liaoyang, were not immediately returned.