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Screenplay-Worthy Sting Op Nets $300 Million in Counterfeit Goods & Drugs

29 charged in New Jersey in international schemes to import counterfeit goods and drugs, launder profits

NEWARK, N.J. -- Massive conspiracies to import hundreds of millions of dollars in counterfeit goods from China and illegal drugs from Taiwan to the U.S. have been disrupted. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Gangs Section, Office of Enforcement Operation and Office of International Affairs.

Undercover agents and court-authorized wiretaps helped uncover two elaborate schemes to defeat federal border and port security measures at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Elizabeth, N.J. Of the 29 charged in New Jersey in an indictment and three criminal complaints as a result of those investigations, 23 are currently in federal custody.

Federal agents arrested Hui Sheng Shen, aka "Charlie," and Huan Ling Chang, aka "Alice," Feb. 25, 2012, in New York. Soon Ah Kow, indicted in January 2012, was also arrested Saturday in the Philippines. Twenty defendants were arrested this morning in a coordinated, multi-agency takedown. Six of the charged defendants remain at large.

The federal investigations into the smuggling of counterfeit goods also uncovered an alleged scheme to import 50 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine. Approximately 1 kilogram of nearly pure crystal meth was purchased from the defendants as part of the operation, which stopped the importation of dozens of additional kilograms of the drug.

In addition to the arrests, federal authorities are seeking to seize and forfeit all proceeds of the counterfeiting scheme and property used to commit the counterfeiting scheme, including automobiles, U.S. currency and other valuables, and the home of one of the leaders of the counterfeiting ring.

"Thanks to the efforts of HSI and our law enforcement partners, we were able to take down a massive counterfeit smuggling enterprise - a scheme involving individuals who were stealing corporate identities and smuggling counterfeit merchandise out of China," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins. "Had they not been caught, approximately $300 million worth of illicit goods would have been smuggled into our country. The enormity of this case - and the fact that we followed the investigative leads directly to the source in China, where so many counterfeit goods originate - is a stern warning to counterfeiters and smugglers everywhere. We are vigilantly watching our ports of entry for criminal activity that undermines legitimate commerce and potentially threatens the security of the United States."

"The cost of counterfeit goods is not limited to massive financial harm to American businesses and consumers," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. "Criminals can exploit the same channels to import other material that threatens our health and safety. We remain dedicated, through global, inter-agency cooperation and long-term investigations like this one, to ensuring that criminals who see the ports as a gateway to America's black market instead face American justice."

"CBP is on the front line of intellectual property rights enforcement, partnering with other federal agencies, industry and foreign governments to fight cross-border trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. We are proud to have been part of this important effort to safeguard our nation," said Robert E. Perez, CBP Director, New York Field Operations.

According to the criminal complaints and indictment unsealed today:

Patrick Siu et al. scheme

An investigation led by HSI uncovered a massive scheme to smuggle counterfeit goods manufactured in China into the United States through containers falsely associated with legitimate importers. The investigation was supported by officers from CBP, who helped target, identify and process the suspect containers. Many of the containers of goods were worth millions of dollars each and together had an estimated retail value of more than $300 million were they legitimate.

The conspirators used stolen corporate identities and false personal identification documents to compromise security at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal to help import and attempt to import more than 135 containers of counterfeit goods - primarily Coach, Louis Vuitton and other handbags, footwear such as UGG boots and Nike sneakers, and clothing - into the United States.

The conspirators concealed the counterfeit goods, among other ways, by using generic outer lids on boxes and generic labels on products to hide the counterfeit brand name labels beneath. Once the products cleared the ports, the conspirators would remove the outer lids and cut off the generic labels. Some conspirators obtained the information of legitimate companies and used it on false shipping paperwork. They then managed the flow of false paperwork between China and the United States, and supervised the importation of counterfeit goods. Others created and used false and fraudulent personal identification documents, such as Social Security cards, to continue the scheme.

Other conspirators managed the distribution of the goods after they arrived in the United States, delivering them to warehouses and distributing them throughout New Jersey, New York and elsewhere.

Conspirators acting as wholesalers obtained counterfeit goods from the directors of the scheme and supplied the retailers who sold them to the ultimate customers in the United States. Some members of the scheme then laundered the profits by wiring millions of dollars to China without reporting the funds as required by federal law.

Many used the profits of their crimes to maintain lavish lifestyles - buying luxury automobiles and tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry. During the course of the investigation, the conspirators sought out undercover federal agents (HSI UCs), who purported to have connections at the port allowing them to release containers that were on hold and pass them through to the conspirators.

The conspirators discussed expanding into other lines of counterfeit products, without regard to whether the counterfeit products harmed the health and safety of consumers in the United States. For example, on Dec. 7, 2010, Hai Yan Jiang spoke with Lin Wu, considering the importation of counterfeit cosmetics. Yan stated that the cosmetics were "counterfeit, but of good quality." When Wu asked Yan whether these products would be harmful to the users, Yan said, "All I care about is to make money, other things do not matter." When Wu stated that "business needs to be done with a clear conscience," Yan replied, "Then go be a monk."

Ning Guo et al. scheme

Simultaneously, the FBI was conducting a parallel investigation into targets operating a smuggling scheme at the port. As the investigations developed, law enforcement discovered targets that connected the conspiracies. The FBI then joined together with HSI, CBP and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey to coordinate operations.

This scheme also involved a large-scale international counterfeit goods smuggling and distribution conspiracy and falsified shipping paperwork. As part of the investigation, law enforcement set up a front company as a purported importer of goods. Through the smuggling scheme, the conspirators imported over 35 containers of counterfeit goods with a retail value of over $25 million, including counterfeit Nike sneakers and UGG boots; Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Gucci handbags; and cigarettes, among other items.

Some of the conspirators engaged in a conspiracy to launder what they believed to be the proceeds of narcotics and illegal gambling activity through banks in China, the United States and elsewhere.

Kow, Shen and Chang scheme

Soon Ah Kow - charged by indictment with drug importation, smuggling and counterfeit goods trafficking offenses by a Newark federal grand jury Jan. 6, 2012, was arrested over the weekend following an operation by law enforcement which lured Kow from his residence in Hong Kong.

In February 2012, undercover law enforcement agents lured Kow, who was unaware he was indicted, to the Philippines under the guise of paying him for past transactions and discussing future illegal activities. The Department of Justice, working closely with Philippine authorities, obtained a provisional arrest warrant for Kow, who was arrested by Philippine law enforcement agents as he stepped off his plane in Manila. Kow is in the business of brokering international transactions of illegal goods. Operating out of Southeast Asia, he has met with and introduced his co-conspirators to undercover federal agents (the "FBI UCs") on numerous occasions for the purpose of importing counterfeit goods and narcotics from Asia to the United States.

The FBI learned in August 2008 that Kow was looking for assistance in importing several containers of counterfeit cigarettes and clearing them through customs. Depending on the size, each such container is worth approximately $2.5 million to $5 million. Kow contacted FBI UCs posing as individuals who, with associates, could clear counterfeit goods through customs and have them removed from ports on both the east and west coasts of the United States. Kow and several of the conspirators charged in the Guo et al. complaint then used UCs to import several containers of counterfeit goods and counterfeit cigarettes worth millions of dollars.

In late 2010, Kow began discussions with FBI UCs about narcotics importation, meeting in February 2011 with FBI UCs in Manila where he introduced them to his associates, Hui Sheng Shen and Huan Ling Chang. In Manila, Kow told the FBI UCs that Shen and Chang represented the interests of Kow's associates, wealthy narcotics dealers who had been trafficking drugs for over 25 years. Kow and Shen arranged for the delivery of a sample of crystal methamphetamine to the FBI UCs' hotel lobby, which arrived within hours of a call Ah Kow placed to an associate in Hong Kong.

Following negotiations over recorded telephone calls and intercepted emails, the FBI UCs wired approximately $70,000 to a bank account in Taiwan to cover the price of 1 kilogram of crystal meth, shipping costs, and a broker's fee for Kow. In July 2011, the UCs received a bill of lading for the container that included the meth, which arrived at the port August 9, 2011. The drugs were discovered secreted within the container by CBP officers in the exact location described by Shen and Chang. The meth was hidden inside closed bags of Chinese tea placed within a metal tower-type computer, which was then placed within the packaging for such a computer.

During negotiations for the 1 kilogram meth deal, Shen and Chang made clear they usually did larger transactions, but agreed to do a smaller transaction to establish trust among the parties. During recorded meetings with FBI UCs in February 2012, Shen and Chang finalized the negotiations for a series of large-scale international narcotics transactions, which would result in more than 50 kilograms of methamphetamine to be imported into the United States, and hundreds more sent to Japan and elsewhere. The defendants provided the FBI UCs with information for a bank account they had opened for these transactions.

ZONE DEFENSE: Counterfeit NBA Gear Seized

I.C.E. Agents confiscate thousands of counterfeit goods at NBA All-Star Weekend

  • Agents confiscate thousands of counterfeit goods at NBA All-Star Weekend
  • Agents confiscate thousands of counterfeit goods at NBA All-Star Weekend

 More than 2,500 counterfeit items were confiscated as the result of a joint operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office during the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando.

"Counterfeiters prey on sports fans at events like the NBA All-Star Game," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "I urge buyers to beware. Counterfeiting is not a harmless crime. Counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses more than $200 billion each year and accounts for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs."

During the days leading up to the NBA All-Star Game, HSI special agents operated in teams throughout the Orlando area, targeting suspicious activity that might lead them to counterfeiters. HSI special agents seized counterfeit items including t-shirts, caps and jerseys. The items are valued at more than $69,000. Ten individuals were arrested for possessing or offering to sell counterfeit NBA merchandise in violation of Florida state law.

"The NBA is committed year-round to protecting both our fans and legitimate, tax-paying retailers from being victimized by counterfeiters seeking to profit illegally from the public's enthusiasm for the NBA," said Ayala Deutsch, senior vice president and chief intellectual property counsel for the NBA. "We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of HSI, the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office throughout All-Star Weekend and are pleased to have their support in working to address this important issue."

SOURCE: I.C.E.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS - CBP Seizes $51 Million in Knock-off Perfume in 2011

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized imports of counterfeit perfume valued at nearly $51 million during fiscal year 2011.

Counterfeit perfumes are a form of theft from the brand owner, and protecting American intellectual property is a priority for CBP. In addition to the economic harm, counterfeit perfumes are also often contaminated with unknown chemicals that can cause serious injury.

The fake perfume that CBP most frequently intercepted was labeled "Sex in the City" perfume, which is related to the highly popular HBO movie and television series. CBP has been working with the right holder to crack down on these illegal imports.

In fiscal year 2011, CBP's Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) National Targeting and Analysis Group (NTAG) in Los Angeles targeted 138 commercial shipments of perfumes for possible trademark infringement. These shipments were examined and 52 were seized for infringing a trademark, including the "Sex and the City" trademark. The domestic value of the seized shipments, which contained more than one million pieces, was nearly $8 million. If the trademark had been genuine, the manufacturer's suggested retail price of the perfume would have been more than $45 million.

The IPR-NTAG provides a national strategic perspective on trade through risk analysis and multi-disciplined trade strategies; develops and applies risk management techniques to support trade security and trade compliance; supports national trade strategies and field enforcement operations; and monitors the effectiveness of trade criteria and the targeting process.

In the past year, the IPR-NTAG uncovered more than 30 entities involved in the importation of counterfeit perfume,

U.S. ports of entry and the IPR-NTAG continue to target for counterfeit perfumes and to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators to assist in enforcement actions and develop criminal cases. CBP also works closely with right holders in intellectual property rights enforcement.

In fiscal year 2011, 24,792 seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods with a total domestic value of $178.9 million and a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $1.1 billion were intercepted before entering the United States.

Wonder if they have WiFi in Federal Prison

A North Texas man was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly five years in federal prison, and ordered to pay $402,417 in restitution, following his June 2011 guilty plea on copyright infringement, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor sentenced James Clayton Baxter, 28, of Wichita Falls, Texas, to 57 months in prison. Baxter must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons by March 29.

According to documents filed in the case, from June 8, 2006 through April 9, 2007, Baxter infringed upon the copyrighted works of Adobe Systems Inc. by reproducing copies of its computer software for his financial gain. The investigation into Baxter's activities began in May 2007 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was notified by investigators working for Adobe that they had purchased infringing computer software from TechKappa.com, a website that sold copies of software titles via download from the Internet. The investigation led investigators to Baxter's residence on Lou Lane in Wichita Falls.

Also in 2007, the FBI received a separate lead from the Wichita Falls Police Department (WFPD) regarding Baxter's involvement in selling pirated software. WFPD encountered Baxter selling infringing software in 2004 while investigating him for credit card abuse; he was warned that he could not sell pirated software on his websites. WFPD executed a search warrant at Baxter's residence in October 2007, and seized computers and external storage media.

The investigation revealed that Baxter owned and operated various websites, including Amerisoftware.com, Costfriendlysoftware.net, TechKappa.com, Ultrabackup.net, Superbuysoftware.net and Go-E-Soft.com. These sites, which he advertised online, offered "backup" copies of software, owned by Adobe, Microsoft and Autodesk Inc., for sale at about one-fifth of the manufacturer's retail value. Baxter also provided counterfeit product registration codes (serial numbers) that were distributed with the software so that the customer could install the software.

Between June 8, 2006, through April 9, 2007, Baxter caused more than 90 infringed copies of copyrighted software to be reproduced and distributed, for which he received more than $66,000. These included copies of the following copyrighted computer software: Adobe's Photoshop CS2, Adobe Illustrator CS2 and Adobe Photoshop 7.

Baxter admits that he knew the "backup" copies of Adobe software were illegal reproductions and that he willfully infringed on their works for his personal financial gain. Baxter and the government agree that the government can prove an actual loss of between $400,000 and $1 million.

Between 2004 and 2007, Baxter established at least 17 assumed business names with accompanying merchant bank accounts to process credit card payments for software orders. For example, during the brief time period between Aug. 7 and Aug. 18, 2006, Baxter received $18,036 in his PayPal account. Records further show that these merchant bank accounts processed 3,089 approved software orders that totaled $384,380.

The conviction and sentencing of James Clayton Baxter is the latest in a series of investigations initiated by the National IPR Coordination Center involving defendants from Wichita Falls, Texas. Six other men have also been convicted of operating websites used to sell pirated Adobe software:

Thomas C. Rushing III, William Lance Partridge and Brian C. Rue all pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 22, 2008.
Timothy K. Dunaway pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Oct. 20, 2008.
Robert and Todd Cook pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement in Alexandria, Va., on March 11, 2010.
Sentences for the seven defendants ranged from 12 months and a day to 57 months imprisonment with restitution totaling more than $2 million ordered to be paid to Adobe Systems Inc., a U.S. corporation based in San Jose, Calif. Combined, the counterfeit Adobe software sold by these individuals had a retail value of more than $15 million.

BLOWOUT - CBP Seizes $2.5mill worth of unsafe Hair Dryers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized thousands of hair dryers recently that were determined to constitute a "substantial product hazard" under U.S. law for failing to have adequate immersion protection. The potentially dangerous hair dryers were identified through a nationwide targeting operation by the CBP Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC). CBP Stops Thousands of Unsafe Hair Dryers

 click for hi-res
Hair dryer seized by CBP
Hair dryer seized by CBP
As a result of the targeting operation, CBP officers in the port of Los Angeles seized an entire shipment of 9,768 hair dryers that lacked shock protection for consumers. Lack of proper shock protection could lead to an electrocution if contact is made with a water source. The port of Miami had a notable seizure of 3,614 hair dryers that also lacked proper shock protection for consumers. These two shipments, containing a total of 13,382 hair dryers, had an estimated domestic value of approximately $229,998 with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $2,506,517.

"Ensuring the safety of imported merchandise is a top priority for CBP," said Allen Gina, CBP's assistant commissioner for international trade. "The concerted targeting efforts of CTAC and the vigilance of CBP officers at our ports of entry will help ensure that products like hair dryers are safe for consumers and that substandard product from overseas does not reach store shelves."

Hair dryers seized by CBP
Hair dryers seized by CBP
The joint targeting operation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) concentrated on identifying and stopping the importation of unsafe hair dryers intended for consumer use. CPSC reports that since adoption of industry voluntary standards for immersion protection in its regulations, there has been a significant decline in electrocutions or electrical shock incidents.

"This is another example of how U.S. consumers benefit from the close collaboration between CPSC investigators and CBP officers at some of the largest U.S. ports of entry," said Carol Cave, CPSC's Director of the Office of Import Surveillance. "Using data provided by CBP, CPSC is able to target and interdict dangerous and violative consumer goods before they enter the stream of commerce."

To ensure the safety of imported electrical products, CPSC is working closely with CBP to identify potentially unsafe shipments for CBP to check at ports of entry. CPSC has established permanent staffing at the CTAC in Washington, DC, and is working with CBP at ports to stop unsafe imports from entering the commerce of the U.S.

The CTAC combines resources and personnel from various government agencies to protect the American public from harm caused by unsafe imported products. The center accomplishes this through better communication, information-sharing, and by reducing redundant inspection activities.

Funny - I thought "ROLEX" only had one "L" in the Name. . . .

Top Story: HSI special agents seize $825,570 worth of counterfeit goods

You never know what you'll find at a flea market - antiques, toys or even a deal of a lifetime. But special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) warn that those deals of a lifetime may be too good to be true.

Across the country, flea markets have become notorious hot spots for selling counterfeit goods. That was the case Feb. 13, when HSI special agents identified vendors peddling counterfeit purses, shoes and jewelry items at a flea market just outside Tampa, Fla.

"We had received tips that individuals were fraudulently selling trademarked items here," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

That day, special agents seized more than 6,200 items with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $825,570. The items falsely exhibited trademarks of Hello Kitty, Gucci, Rolex, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Perry Ellis.

"A good rule of thumb is for buyers to beware. When you purchase these items you're not getting a quality product from the trademark-holder. You're getting a substandard one," said McCormick. "You're also contributing to the loss of American jobs."

This seizure follows on the heels of an operation that took place earlier this month. On Feb. 1, HSI Tampa special agents seized nearly $1.2 million worth of fake designer purses, perfume, scarves and sunglasses from an individual already awaiting sentencing for trafficking in counterfeit goods.

ICE is the lead agency investigating intellectual property theft. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition estimates that counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses between $200 and $500 billion each year and more than 750,000 American jobs.

Learn more about intellectual property theft at www.iprcenter.gov.

IP Infringement Can Kill - The Threat to Our Soldiers

California business owner sentenced for conspiring to sell counterfeit microelectronics to the US military

A business owner from Newport Coast, Calif., was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in prison for conspiring to sell counterfeit integrated circuits to the U.S. military, defense contractors and others.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Mustafa Abdul Aljaff, 32, pleaded guilty in January 2010 to federal charges of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and defraud the United States, and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Upon completion of his prison term, Aljaff will be placed on three years of supervised release and be required to perform 250 hours of community service.

"Counterfeit electrical components destined for use by our military service members put those troops, and our national security, at great risk," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge, HSI Washington. "That is why HSI will continue to prioritize the investigation of companies and individuals who attempt to engage in this type of criminal act."

As part of the plea agreement, Aljaff agreed to forfeit industrial machinery which is designed to be used in the examination, testing, packaging, de-marking and marking of integrated circuits; computers and computer network servers; and his integrated circuit inventory. These items were seized from his business in connection with the execution of a search warrant on Oct. 8, 2009.

Aljaff also must pay $177,862 in restitution to the semiconductor companies whose trademarks were infringed as a result of his criminal conduct.

Co-defendant Neil Felahy, 34, the operations manager for Aljaff's company and his brother-in-law, is awaiting sentencing on Feb. 22 after pleading guilty to charges in the case.

"Today's prison sentence sends a message to the unscrupulous counterfeiters who put us all at risk by selling phony integrated circuits that end up in our military systems, medical devices and consumer products," said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr., for the District of Columbia. "We will continue to prosecute, convict and seek prison sentences for the criminals who threaten our health, safety and national security with their greed."

"Counterfeit parts pose a grave threat to both the operational readiness and safety of our military forces," said John F. Wagner, special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C. office of NCIS. "These prosecution results embody the effectiveness of interagency law enforcement cooperation."

Aljaff pleaded guilty soon after his arrest and cooperated with authorities as the investigation continued. He owned MVP Micro and a host of other companies operating from the same location in Irvine, Calif. According to the government's evidence, he was the mastermind and leader of the highly sophisticated fraud scheme to import, sell, manufacture and distribute, in interstate and international commerce, counterfeit integrated circuits. The conspiracy took place between September 2007 and August 2009.

An integrated circuit is a high-tech device, incorporated into a computer board, which acts as a switch. Integrated circuits control the flow of electricity in the goods or systems into which they are incorporated. They are used in a variety of applications, including industrial, consumer electronics, transportation, infrastructure, medical devices and systems, spacecraft, and military.

Counterfeit integrated circuits can result in product or system failure or malfunction, and can lead to costly system repairs, property damage and serious bodily injury, including death. They also raise national security concerns because their history is unknown, including who has handled them and what has been done to them. In addition, the devices can be altered and certain devices can be preprogrammed. Counterfeits can contain malicious code or hidden "back doors" enabling systems disablement, communications interception and computer network intrusion.

Markings on integrated circuits indicate a part is "commercial-grade,""industrial-grade," or "military-grade." Military-grade markings signify that the part has been specially tested to withstand extreme temperature ranges and high rates of vibration.

According to the government's evidence, Aljaff and others sold the counterfeit devices, which included military-grade parts, through a cleverly designed web of corporations to unsuspecting customers in the United States and abroad. MVP and related companies sold and distributed counterfeit integrated circuits to approximately 420 buyers in the United States and abroad, including the U.S. Department of the Navy, defense contractors, other broker/distributors and numerous industry sectors, including transportation, medical services and aerospace.

During his guilty plea, Aljaff agreed that on more than 20 separate occasions, he and others imported into the United States from China and Hong Kong, approximately 13,073 integrated circuits bearing counterfeit trademarks, including military-grade markings, valued at about $140,835. Those counterfeit integrated circuits bore the purported trademarks of a number of legitimate semiconductor manufacturers.

One of the two counts to which Aljaff pleaded guilty involved a counterfeit, military-grade integrated circuit that he had purchased from a Florida-based company, Vision Tech Components, LLC. The owner of Vision Tech, Shannon Wren, was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on conspiracy and other charges related to the firm's own sales of counterfeit integrated circuits. Also indicted in that case was Stephanie McCloskey, Vision Tech's administrative manager. Wren died pending trial. McCloskey pled guilty in November 2010 to charges of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and to commit mail fraud and was sentenced in October 2011 to a prison term of 38 months.

SOURCE:  ICE / CBP

Remember to Check the "Bad Guy" Lists - or Find Yourself on Them

A former manager of a Netherlands-based freight-forwarding company pleaded guilty for conspiring to defraud the United States by facilitating the illegal export of goods to Iran, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Ulrich Davis, 50, a Dutch citizen of Pumerend, The Netherlands, pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States through the violation of a U.S. Department of Commerce Temporary Denial Order ("TDO"). Davis entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court.

According to the Information to which Davis pleaded guilty, other documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Davis was the sales and business development manager for a company described in the Information as the "Netherlands Freight Forwarding Company" in 2007 and 2008. The Netherlands Freight Forwarding company was affiliated with a New York-based freight-forwarding company.

During that time, Davis facilitated shipments to be made to Iran without the necessary authorization from the United States government and in violation of the law.

In October 2007, an assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement - at the behest of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security ("BIS") through its Office of Export Enforcement - issued a Temporary Denial Order (TDO) denying export privileges to the company of Davis' coconspirator under the Export Administration Regulations ("EAR"). The TDO prohibited any person, which included Davis, from directly or indirectly exporting or reexporting to or on behalf of the coconspirator, among others.

The coconspirator, who was located in another country, purchased U.S. origin goods from a New Jersey company, among other companies, for businesses and governmental agencies of Iran. The New Jersey company was in the business of reselling chemicals, lubricants, sealants and other products used in the aircraft industry.

As part of the conspiracy, Davis and his coconspirator directed the New York Freight Forwarding company to arrange for a trucking company to pick up commodities from the New Jersey company and transport them to New York on behalf of the coconspirator's company.

Davis admitted that in November 2007, he completed an air waybill that represented certain acrylic adhesives and spray paint coatings obtained from a New Jersey company were to be forwarded on behalf of the co-conspirator's company to a company in Iran after issuance of the TDO.

In a January 2008 e-mail regarding the shipments, Davis noted that, "99% of these goods were destined to be send [sic] to Teheran [sic]/Iran, which was and still is a very difficult destination due to political reasons. We have handled shipments to Teheran [sic] for various customers who had to shut down their operation because they were doing business with Teheran [sic]/Iran and inspite [sic] of the risk we take we always handled your shipments in a good manner."

Davis acknowledged that at no time was any relief, exception, or other authorization sought from the TDO.

The count to which Davis pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for May 15, 2012.

WHEN CAN INFORMATION GET YOU IN TROUBLE? Ask these 3 Companies about Anti-boycott Penalties

THREE COMPANIES SETTLE ANTIBOYCOTT CHARGES

U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry and Security, David W. Mills announced today that three companies agreed to pay a total of $ 35,200 in civil penalties to settle allegations that each violated the antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The companies are: Weiss-Rohlig USA LLC, JAS Forwarding (USA) Inc. (Los Angeles), and Rexnord Industries LLC.

Case summaries and additional information:

Weiss-Rohlig USA LLC (W-R), located in Cranford, NJ, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $8,000 to settle two allegations that it violated the antiboycott provisions of the EAR. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), through its Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), alleged that during the year 2006, in connection with transactions involving the sale and/or transfer of goods or services (including information) from the United States to Kuwait, W-R on one occasion, furnished prohibited information in a statement regarding the blacklist status of the carrying vessel, in violation of the antiboycott provisions of the EAR and, on one occasion, failed to report to the Department of Commerce the receipt of a request to engage in a restrictive trade practice or boycott, as required by the EAR. Further information is available at: http://efoia.bis.doc.gov/antiboycott/violations/tocantiboycott.html

JAS Forwarding (USA) Inc. (Los Angeles) (JAS) has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $ 19,200 to settle three allegations that it violated the antiboycott provisions of the EAR. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), through its Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), alleged that during the year 2006, in connection with transactions involving the sale and/or transfer of goods or services (including information) from the United States to Lebanon and Kuwait, JAS, on three occasions, furnished prohibited information in statements certifying that the goods were neither of Israeli origin nor contained Israeli materials and in a statement regarding the blacklist status of the insurance company. Further information is available at: http://efoia.bis.doc.gov/antiboycott/violations/tocantiboycott.html

Rexnord Industries LLC (Rexnord), located in Milwaukee, WI, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $ 8,000 to settle five allegations that it violated the antiboycott provisions of the EAR. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), through its Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), alleged that during the years 2007 through 2009, in connection with transactions involving the sale and/or transfer of goods or services (including information) from the United States to Qatar, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Rexnord, on one occasion, furnished prohibited information in a statement certifying that the goods were neither of Israeli origin nor contained Israeli materials and, on four occasions, failed to report to the Department of Commerce the receipt of a request to engage in a restrictive trade practice or boycott, as required by the EAR. Rexnord voluntarily disclosed the transactions to BIS. Further information is available at: http://efoia.bis.doc.gov/antiboycott/violations/tocantiboycott.html

BACKGROUND

The antiboycott provisions of the EAR prohibit US persons from taking certain actions with intent to comply with, further or support unsanctioned foreign boycotts, including furnishing information about business relationships with or in a boycotted country or with blacklisted persons. In addition, the EAR requires that persons report their receipt of certain boycott requests to the Department of Commerce. For more information, please visit BIS' Online Training Room at http://www.bis.doc.gov/seminarsandtraining/seminar-training.htm or contact the OAC Advice Line at (202) 482.2381.

SOURCE: BIS

BAD SPORTS: 300+ Websites Seized for Sports-Related IP Infringement

Furthering the US government's efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy online, special agents recently seized a total of 307 websites. Sixteen of the sites illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games. Two hundred ninety-one website domain names were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise.

Additionally, Yonjo Quiroa, 28, of Comstock Park, Mich., was recently arrested by special agents with HSI. He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet. Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and he operated them from his home in Michigan until yesterday's arrest.

The website seizures during Operation Fake Sweep represent the 10th phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. The 307 websites have been seized by law enforcement and are now in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will then find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.

American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material and produce counterfeit trademarked goods. Criminals are attempting to steal American ideas and products and sell them over the Internet, in flea markets, in legitimate retail outlets and elsewhere. Intellectual property (IP) thieves undermine the U.S. economy and jeopardize public safety. American jobs are being lost, American innovation is being diluted - and organized criminal enterprises are profiting from their increasing involvement in IP theft.

Since the launch of Operation In Our Sites in June 2010, the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) has seized a total of 669 domain names.

INTERCEPTION !! ICE Seizes nearly $5 Million in fake NFL Gear

Speaking at a National Football League (NFL) news conference on Thursday (2 Feb 2012), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations in Chicago David Murphy and NFL Vice President for Legal Affairs Anastasia Danias announced the record-breaking results of a nationwide enforcement operation targeting stores, flea markets and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear throughout the country. Special agents and officers also targeted illegal counterfeit imports into the United States, and seized hundreds of websites engaged in counterfeiting and piracy online. The initiative, dubbed Operation Fake Sweep, commenced Oct. 1, 2011.

Fake jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated by teams comprised of: ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana State Police - all in partnership with the NFL.

'Hard goods' seizures

Special agents from HSI and officers with CBP operated in multiple teams with the NFL and various law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to identify illegal shipments imported into the U.S., as well as stores and vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items. With three days left before Super Bowl XLVI, these teams have already seized 42,692 items of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit items to date for a total take of more than $4.8 million - up from $3.72 million last year.

During this operation, an additional 22,570 items of counterfeit merchandise and clothing representing other sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League were seized by law enforcement. In total, this operation netted 65,262 counterfeit items worth $6.4 million.

"While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans," said ICE Director Morton. "In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law."

"The NFL is committed to protecting fans and local businesses from being victimized by counterfeiters who are looking to profit illegally off of the public's enthusiasm for the NFL," said NFL Vice President Danias. "We are grateful for Homeland Security Investigations' tireless efforts in combating intellectual property theft and are pleased to be working along with them and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on this important issue."

Source: CBP

CBP Donates Nearly $1.3 Million worth of Merchandise to Charities

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently announced the donation of more than $1 million worth of abandoned and unclaimed merchandise to charities across the nation. Partnering with storage warehouses and local municipalities, several ports of entry were able to donate items to local charities over the last few weeks.


CBP officers in Tampa, Fla. help transfer donated merchandise to an organization set up to assist victims of domestic violence.
CBP officers in Tampa, Fla. help transfer donated merchandise to an organization set up to assist victims of domestic violence.
Some of the donations included clothes and bedding to an organization assisting women of domestic abuse in Tampa; men's and women's clothing to a Mission in Ft. Worth, Texas; and clothing and linens to the Salvation Army in Savannah, Ga. Donations made include more than $1.25 million worth of various articles, including apparel, toys, bedding and footwear.

"During these difficult economic times, charities are on the front lines of serving those in need and CBP is proud to support them by donating unclaimed items in our possession," said Acting Assistant Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. "We especially appreciate the support from our local partners as these donations would not have happened with out their assistance."

CBP relies on the strong partnerships it maintains with both the warehouses, who agreed to waive the storage fees on items that were donated, as well as the local governments and municipalities who worked with CBP to ensure federal rules and regulations were followed. While CBP, as a federal entity, is prohibited from donating General Order merchandise to specific individuals, the agency was able to transfer the merchandise to local municipalities who would make the determination as to the recipient of the goods.

When items arrive at a port of entry without proper contact information for the shipper or recipient, or lack certain other documentation needed to make legal entry into the United States, the goods enter the ranks of General Order merchandise. After six months with no claim, the merchandise then becomes abandoned/unclaimed and property of the U.S. government. These items are then eligible to be sold at monthly auctions, however sometimes CBP is able to donate this property to worthy causes.

While the donation of General Order merchandise is not something CBP is able to do on a regular basis, the agency does have a history of donating seized property. Ports of entry work with points of contact they maintain within their local municipalities to ensure that if a need arises, seized property that meets safety and trademark regulations, can be donated as necessary.

Mixed Signals: Scientist faces Jail for Illegal Antenna Export Scheme

Rudolf L. Cheung, 57, a resident of Massachusetts, recently pleaded guilty in federal court in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act in connection with the unlawful export of 55 military antennae from the United States to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Cheung serves as the head of the Research & Development Department at a private company that manufactures antennae. Over the past 17 years, he has designed or supervised the development of a full library of antennae made by the firm, many of which have military applications and are used by defense contractors. Some of Cheung's inventions are used in the U.S. space program. 

According to court documents filed in the case, in June 2006, a company in Singapore sent an inquiry to the firm that employs Cheung seeking a quotation for two types of antennae that are classified by the U.S. government as defense articles and may not be exported without a license or approval from the State Department. After receiving the query, the export compliance officer at Cheung's firm advised the firm in Singapore that neither antenna could be exported unless they filled out a U.S. government form attesting that the goods would not be transferred. The firm in Singapore refused and the order was stopped.

After learning that the export compliance officer at his company had blocked the export, Cheung admitted that he discussed with an individual outside his company (co-conspirator C) a plan to bypass the export controls at his company and arrange for the antennae to be exported to Singapore through co-conspirator C. Under the plan, co-conspirator C, who operated his own company in Massachusetts, would purchase these goods from Cheung's company and then export them on his own to the firm in Singapore, with Cheung's knowledge.

Subsequently, co-conspirator C contacted the firm in Singapore and offered to broker the deal with Cheung's company. Co-conspirator C then negotiated the purchase of the antennae with employees of the firm in Singapore and, later, with another company called Corezing International in Singapore. Between July and September 2007, co-conspirator C purchased 55 military antennae from Cheung's company, which he then exported to Corezing addresses in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to court documents, Cheung was aware that the purchases by Co-conspirator C were intended for export from the United States and that these exports had previously been blocked by his export compliance manager. Yet Cheung took no action to stop the sale of these antennae from his company or their subsequent export from the United States, even though he knew a license was required for such exports. Cheung neither sought nor obtained any license from the State Department to export these items outside the United States.

At sentencing, Cheung faces a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and a 3-year term of supervised release.

Corezing, based in Singapore, has been charged in a separate indictment in the District of Columbia in connection with the export of these particular military antennae to Singapore and Hong Kong. Corezing and its principals have also been charged, and the United States is seeking their extradition, in connection with the export of 6,000 radio frequency modules from the United States to Iran via Singapore, some of which were later found in improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Think Their Insurance Will Cover This?

Aon Corporation  to Pay Over $16 Million in Penalties to Resolve Violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

 

Aon Corporation, a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Chicago and one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to pay a $1.76 million penalty to resolve violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  

 

According to the non-prosecution agreement, Aon's United Kingdom subsidiary, Aon Limited, administered certain training and education funds in connection with its reinsurance business with Instituto Nacional De Seguros (INS), Costa Rica's state-owned insurance company.   The supposed purpose of the funds was to provide education and training for INS officials.   However, between 1997 and 2005, Aon Limited used a significant portion of the funds to reimburse INS officials for non-training related activity, including travel with spouses to overseas tourist destinations, or for uses that could not be determined from Aon's books and records.   Many of the invoices and other records for trips taken by INS officials did not provide any business purpose for the expenditures, or showed that the expenses were clearly not related to a legitimate business purpose.  

 

As part of the agreement, Aon admitted that Aon Limited's accounting books and records related to the funds, which were consolidated into Aon's books and records, did not accurately and fairly reflect the purpose for which the expenses were incurred.   Aon also admitted that it failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls with respect to foreign sales activities sufficient to ensure compliance with the FCPA.    

 

In addition to the monetary penalty, the agreement requires that Aon Corporation adhere to rigorous compliance, bookkeeping and internal controls standards and cooperate fully with the department.  

 

The department entered into a non-prosecution agreement with Aon as a result of Aon's extraordinary cooperation with the department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); its timely and complete disclosure of improper payments in Costa Rica and other countries that it discovered during its thorough investigation of its global operations; its early and extensive remedial efforts; the prior financial penalty of £5.25 million that Aon Limited paid to the United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority (FSA); and the FSA's close and continuous supervisory oversight over Aon Limited.   These factors also led to a substantially reduced monetary penalty.  

 

In a related matter, Aon Corporation reached a settlement with the SEC and agreed to pay approximately $14.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  

FCPA to European Telecom Giants: "Can You Hear Me Now?"

Magyar Telekom Plc., a Hungarian telecommunications company, and Deutsche Telekom AG, a German telecommunications company and majority owner of Magyar Telekom, have agreed to pay a combined $63.9 million criminal penalty to resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation into activities by Magyar Telekom and its subsidiaries in Macedonia and Montenegro, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.


The department filed a criminal information against Magyar Telekom and a two-year deferred prosecution agreement in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia today. The three-count information charges Magyar Telekom with one count of violating the anti- bribery provision of the FCPA and two counts of violating the books and records provisions of the FCPA. At the time of the charged conduct, Magyar Telekom's American Depository Receipts (ADRs) traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, Magyar Telekom agreed to pay a $59.6 million penalty for its illegal activity, implement an enhanced compliance program, and submit annual reports regarding its efforts in implementing the enhanced compliance measures and remediating past problems.

According to court documents, Magyar Telekom's scheme in Macedonia stemmed from potential legal changes being made to the telecommunications market in that country.    In early 2005, the Macedonian government tried to liberalize the Macedonian telecommunications market in a way that Magyar Telekom deemed detrimental to its Macedonian subsidiary, Makedonski Telekommunikacii AD Skopje (MakTel). Throughout the late winter and spring of 2005, Magyar Telekom executives, with the help of Greek intermediaries, lobbied Macedonian government officials to prevent the implementation of the new telecommunications laws and regulations.


Magyar Telekom eventually entered into an agreement with certain high-ranking Macedonian government officials to resolve its concerns about the legal changes. In the secret agreement, a so-called "protocol of cooperation," Macedonian government officials agreed to delay the entrance of a third mobile license into the Macedonian telecommunications market, as well as other regulatory benefits. Magyar Telekom executives signed two copies of the protocol of cooperation, each with high-ranking officials of the different ruling parties of Macedonia. The Magyar Telekom executives then kept the only executed copies outside of Magyar Telekom's company records.

According to court documents, in order to secure the benefits in the protocol of cooperation, the Magyar Telekom executives engaged in a course of conduct with consultants, intermediaries and other third parties, including through sham consultancy contracts with entities owned and controlled by a Greek intermediary, to pay €4.875 (approximately $6 million) under circumstances in which they knew, or were aware of a high probability that circumstances existed in which, all or part of such payment would be passed on to Macedonian officials. The sham contracts were recorded as legitimate on MakTel's books and records, which were consolidated into Magyar Telekom's financials. Deustche Telekom, which owned approximately 60 percent of Magyar Telekom, reported the results of Magyar Telekom's operations in its consolidated financial statements.

Additionally, the criminal information charges Magyar Telekom with falsifying its books and records in regard to its activity in Montenegro. According to the court filing, Magyar Telekom made improper payments in connection with its acquisition of a state-owned telecommunications company in Montenegro. These payments were documented on Magyar Telekom's books and records through the execution of four bogus contracts. For example, two of the contracts were backdated and concealed the true counterparties, and no legitimate services were provided under the contracts even though the contracts were for €4.47 million.

The US DOJ also entered into a two-year non-prosecution agreement with Magyar Telekom's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, for its failure to keep books and records that accurately detailed the activities of Magyar Telekom. Deutsche Telekom, which is headquartered in Germany, agreed to pay a $4.36 million penalty in connection with the inaccurate books and records and to enhance its compliance program. At the time of the conduct, Deutsche Telekom's ADRs traded on the NYSE.

Both agreements acknowledge Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom's voluntary disclosure of the FCPA violations to the department and the leadership of Magyar Telekom's audit committee in pursuing a "thorough global internal investigation concerning bribery and related misconduct." In addition, the agreements highlight that the companies have already undertaken remedial measures and have committed to further remedial steps through the implementation of an enhanced compliance program.


In a related matter, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced civil charges against Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom as well as three former Magyar Telecom executives. Magyar Telekom and Deutsche Telekom consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against FCPA violations. Magyar Telecom agreed to pay $31.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.


Additional information about the Justice Department's FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

Ninjavideo.net Founder Gets 14-months in Prison for Copyright Violations

A founder of NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download high-quality copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs, was sentenced today to 14 months in prison. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).

Matthew David Howard Smith, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., was sentenced today in Alexandria, Va., by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga also ordered Smith to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term, to pay $172,387 and to forfeit to the United States five financial accounts and various computer equipment involved in the crimes. Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.

Smith was one of the founders of the NinjaVideo.net website, which operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. NinjaVideo.net provided millions of website visitors with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. Many of the movies offered on the website were still playing in theaters, while others had not yet been released. According to court documents, Smith designed many operational elements of the website, including an "applet" that was required to view infringing content on the NinjaVideo.net website. Smith admitted that he made agreements with online advertising entities to generate income for the website, and he and his co-conspirators collected more than $500,000 during the website's two-and-a-half years of operation. Smith kept $172,387 of the illegal proceeds for himself.

On Sept. 9, 2011, Smith was indicted along with four of the other top administrators of NinjaVideo.net. Co-defendant Hana Amal Beshara was sentenced on Jan. 6, 2012, to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay nearly $210,000 for her role as another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net. Two additional co-defendants are awaiting sentencing. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for the fourth indicted co-defendant, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece. Another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net who was charged separately has also pleaded guilty.

NinjaVideo was seized during the first phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.

Megaupload Faces Mega-Problems for Alleged Copyright Infringement

US Justice Department Charges Leaders of Megaupload with Widespread Online Copyright Infringement

 

Seven individuals and two corporations have been charged in the United States with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, through Megaupload.com and other related sites, generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI announced recently.

 

This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.

           

The individuals and two corporations - Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited - were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 5, 2012, and charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement. The individuals each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering, five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and five years in prison on each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement.

 

The indictment alleges that the criminal enterprise is led by Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, 37, a resident of both Hong Kong and New Zealand. Dotcom founded Megaupload Limited and is the director and sole shareholder of Vestor Limited, which has been used to hold his ownership interests in the Mega-affiliated sites.

 

In addition, the following alleged members of the Mega conspiracy were charged in the indictment:

  • Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the chief marketing officer;
  • Julius Bencko, 35, a citizen and resident of Slovakia, who is the graphic designer;
  • Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the head of business development;
  • Mathias Ortmann, 40, a citizen of Germany and resident of both Germany and Hong Kong, who is the chief technical officer, co-founder and director;
  • Andrus Nomm, 32, a citizen of Estonia and resident of both Turkey and Estonia, who is a software programmer and head of the development software division;
  • Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, a Dutch citizen and resident of both the Netherlands and New Zealand, who oversees programming and the underlying network structure for the Mega conspiracy websites.

Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and van der Kolk were arrested today in Auckland, New Zealand, by New Zealand authorities, who executed provisional arrest warrants requested by the United States. Bencko, Echternach and Nomm remain at large. Today, law enforcement also executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight countries, seized approximately $50 million in assets and targeted sites where Megaupload has servers in Ashburn, Va., Washington, D.C., the Netherlands and Canada. In addition, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., ordered the seizure of 18 domain names associated with the alleged Mega conspiracy.

 

According to the indictment, for more than five years the conspiracy has operated websites that unlawfully reproduce and distribute infringing copies of copyrighted works, including movies - often before their theatrical release - music, television programs, electronic books, and business and entertainment software on a massive scale. The conspirators' content hosting site, Megaupload.com, is advertised as having more than one billion visits to the site, more than 150 million registered users, 50 million daily visitors and accounting for four percent of the total traffic on the Internet. The estimated harm caused by the conspiracy's criminal conduct to copyright holders is well in excess of $500 million. The conspirators allegedly earned more than $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue and selling premium memberships.

 

The indictment states that the conspirators conducted their illegal operation using a business model expressly designed to promote uploading of the most popular copyrighted works for many millions of users to download. The indictment alleges that the site was structured to discourage the vast majority of its users from using Megaupload for long-term or personal storage by automatically deleting content that was not regularly downloaded. The conspirators further allegedly offered a rewards program that would provide users with financial incentives to upload popular content and drive web traffic to the site, often through user-generated websites known as linking sites. The conspirators allegedly paid users whom they specifically knew uploaded infringing content and publicized their links to users throughout the world.  

 

In addition, by actively supporting the use of third-party linking sites to publicize infringing content, the conspirators did not need to publicize such content on the Megaupload site. Instead, the indictment alleges that the conspirators manipulated the perception of content available on their servers by not providing a public search function on the Megaupload site and by not including popular infringing content on the publicly available lists of top content downloaded by its users.  

 

As alleged in the indictment, the conspirators failed to terminate accounts of users with known copyright infringement, selectively complied with their obligations to remove copyrighted materials from their servers and deliberately misrepresented to copyright holders that they had removed infringing content. For example, when notified by a rights holder that a file contained infringing content, the indictment alleges that the conspirators would disable only a single link to the file, deliberately and deceptively leaving the infringing content in place to make it seamlessly available to millions of users to access through any one of the many duplicate links available for that file.

 

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiring to launder money by paying users through the sites' uploader reward program and paying companies to host the infringing content.  

 

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department's Criminal Division. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs, Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section also assisted with this case.

 

The investigation was initiated and led by the FBI at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. Substantial and critical assistance was provided by the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), the Crown Law Office of New Zealand and the Office of the Solicitor General for New Zealand; Hong Kong Customs and the Hong Kong Department of Justice; the Netherlands Police Agency and the Public Prosecutor's Office for Serious Fraud and Environmental Crime in Rotterdam; London's Metropolitan Police Service; Germany's Bundeskriminalamt and the German Public Prosecutors; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Federal Enforcement Section and the Integrated Technological Crime Unit and the Canadian Department of Justice's International Assistance Group. Authorities in the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines also provided assistance.  

 

This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation's economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce .

 

SOURCE:   US DOJ

2011 Another Record Year for Counterfeit/Infringing Imported Goods Seizures

According to a recently-released report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), counterfeit and pirated goods seizures during fiscal year (FY) 2011 totaled almost 25,000 - a 24 percent increase over 2010.

Many fake goods seriously threaten the health and safety of American consumers and our national security. With this in mind, CBP and ICE continued to step up enforcement against these dangerous products resulting in a 44 percent increase in the number of seizures of health and safety products that could have harmed Americans. The value of these seizures soared to more than $60 million due to increases in pharmaceutical and perfume seizures.

Despite the significant increase in the number of seizures, the domestic value for seizures in fiscal year 2011 decreased by five percent to $178.9 million and the manufacturer's suggested retail price declined slightly to $1.1 billion. This is primarily due to a shift toward using international mail, express courier, and consolidated shipping services to import counterfeit and pirated goods.

"The growth of websites selling counterfeit goods directly to consumers is one reason why CBP and ICE have seen a significant increase in the number of seizures at mail and express courier facilities," said Acting CBP Commissioner David V. Aguilar. "Although these websites may have low prices, what they do not tell consumers is that the true costs to our nation and consumers include lost jobs, stolen business profits, threats to our national security, and a serious risk of injury to consumers."

"I'm very proud of the unrelenting efforts of the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners," said ICE Director John Morton. "IP enforcement is a high priority for ICE and CBP because the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods robs Americans of jobs and puts their safety at risk, costs legitimate businesses billions of dollars in revenue, and fuels criminal activity. In fiscal year 2012, ICE and CBP will continue to focus on keeping these goods off the streets and bring those responsible for producing and distributing them to justice."

China continues to be the number one source country for counterfeit and pirated goods seized, accounting for 62 percent or $124.7 million of the total domestic value of seizures.

For the first time since FY 2005, footwear was not the top commodity seized in fiscal year 2011. Consumer electronics were the top commodity seized, and approximately one-third of this category was represented by IPR infringing cellular phones.

The top 10 categories of IPR-infringing products seized were pharmaceuticals, health/personal care, eyewear/parts, critical technology components, electronic articles, cigarettes, perfumes/colognes, batteries, exercise equipment and transportation/parts.

As the federal agency responsible for the management, control and protection of U.S. borders, CBP is on the frontline of IPR enforcement. The men and women of CBP protect our nation's economy, the safety of its people, and our national security against harm from counterfeit and pirated goods. The continued vigilance of CBP personnel protects United States citizens and businesses every day.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.

Source:  CBP/ICE

SLAP SHOT: Pennsylvania Man Charged with Copyright Infringement of Hockey Broadcasts

Seven charges of copyright infringement against a Pennsylvania man for allegedly infringing on copyright protected broadcasts of hockey games.  Michael Moore, 44, of Chadds Ford, Penn., allegedly infringed the copyright protected works during seven six-month periods between May 2006 and June 2010.   

 

The indictment alleges that HDHOCKEY.TV was a website that offered for sale DVDs containing recordings of copyrighted television broadcasts of hockey games and other copyrighted works such as team and player profiles, from the National Hockey League (NHL) and other professional hockey leagues.   It also alleges that BROADSTREETBULLY.COM was a website offering for sale monthly subscriptions that enabled subscribers to download an unlimited number of video clips of copyrighted television broadcasts of hockey games, and other copyrighted works such as team and player profiles, from the NHL and other professional hockey leagues.   The indictment alleges that neither site had the permission of the NHL or any other professional hockey league to reproduce or distribute these recordings.  

 

The maximum penalty for each count of copyright infringement is five years in prison.   The indictment also seeks forfeiture.  

 

Source: DOJ

CARGILL GETS STEAMED AND DOW SAYS "OW" Chinese National Guilty of Economic Espionage

Kexue Huang, a Chinese national and a former resident of Carmel, Ind., pleaded guilty to one count of economic espionage to benefit a component of the Chinese government and one count of theft of trade secrets.

 

Since its enactment in 1996, there have been a total of eight trade secret theft cases nationwide under the Economic Espionage Act, where the intended beneficiary was a component of a foreign government. 

 

In July 2010, Huang was charged in an indictment filed in the Southern District of Indiana for misappropriating and transporting trade secrets to the People's Republic of China (PRC) while working as a research scientist at Dow AgroSciences LLC.  A separate indictment charged Huang with stealing a trade secret from a second company, Cargill Inc.

 

From January 2003 until February 2008, Huang was employed as a research scientist at Dow, a leading international agricultural company based in Indianapolis that provides agrochemical and biotechnology products.  In 2005, Huang became a research leader for Dow in strain development related to unique, proprietary organic insecticides marketed worldwide.

 

As a Dow employee, Huang signed an agreement that outlined his obligations in handling confidential information, including trade secrets, and prohibited him from disclosing any confidential information without Dow's consent. Dow employed several layers of security to preserve and maintain confidentiality and to prevent unauthorized use or disclosure of its trade secrets.                                                   

           

Huang admitted that during his employment at Dow, he misappropriated several Dow trade secrets.  From 2007 to 2010, Huang transferred and delivered the stolen Dow trade secrets to individuals in Germany and the PRC.  With the assistance of these individuals, Huang used the stolen materials to conduct unauthorized research with the intent to benefit foreign universities that were instrumentalities of the PRC government.  Huang also admitted that he pursued steps to develop and produce the misappropriated Dow trade secrets in the PRC, including identifying manufacturing facilities in the PRC that would allow him to compete directly with Dow in the established organic pesticide market.

 

After Huang left Dow, he was hired in March 2008 by Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services.  Huang worked as a biotechnologist for Cargill until July 2009 and signed a confidentiality agreement promising never to disclose any trade secrets or other confidential information of Cargill.  Huang admitted that during his employment with Cargill, he stole one of the company's trade secrets - a key component in the manufacture of a new food product, which he later disseminated to another person, specifically a student at Hunan Normal University in the PRC.

 

The aggregated loss from Huang's criminal conduct exceeds $7 million but is less than $20 million. 

  

At sentencing, Huang faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years on the economic espionage charge and 10 years on the theft of trade secrets charge.

 

SOURCE: DOJ

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