The Long Beach Police Department served a search warrant at a local business that was being operated by a Compton Varrio 155 gang member. This was not the first warrant that was served at this location, in fact it was the second warrant served for the sales of counterfeit goods. Officers arrested the owner of the location, along with a female employee for trademark counterfeiting. Officers recovered counterfeit shoes, watches, handbags, and clothing. Officers also recovered a stolen handgun.

Counterfeiting is becoming the crime of choice for street gangs. They can make more money selling the counterfeit goods than they can selling crack on the street corner and when they get caught, the punishment is not as severe. The outstanding efforts of the Long Beach PD are making it that much harder for these guys to make money. Crimes such as trademark counterfeiting, music piracy and other intellectual property crimes are growing every day. Criminal organizations are taking advantage of brand owners and stealing their intellectual property on a daily basis and using the proceeds for who knows what!

As responsible citizens we need to think about who we are supporting with our hard earned money. Is it worth saving a few bucks on a purse when the money is funding gangs and crime? What is your conscious worth to you?



By SGT. Steve Opferman

A Los Angeles County task force took out a large scale pharmaceutical counterfeiting operation in Hayward, California. The counterfeiters used a legitimate vitamin factory to disguise their operation. The owner plead open to 2 felony counts of counterfeiting and 1 felony count of possession of controlled substances for sales. He received 5 years in state prison. His accomplice received felony probation, while another suspect passed away, prior to being convicted.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau HALT team (Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force) is a multi-agency, multijurisdictional task force that deals with crimes that impact public health and safety. Investigating illegal distribution and diversion of pharmaceuticals, including counterfeits, is one of the teams many functions.

Detectives received information from an informant that an individual was selling large quantities of counterfeit steroid and Viagra tablets. In this case, the Viagra tablets were white, instead of blue, since the counterfeiters had not yet perfected a color coating method for the pills. A meeting was arraigned with undercover detectives at an upscale Santa Monica hotel room for a “buybust” operation. A lone suspect appeared with steroid and Viagra tablet samples and offered to sell detectives a suitcase full of the product for $250,000.00. After a cash flash, the suspect agreed to the deal and was arrested shortly thereafter.

Upon further investigation, detectives learned that the suspect in custody was responsible for transporting active pharmaceutical ingredients, “Sildenifil Citrate” and “Anadrol” from a Tijuana, Mexico “Pharmacia” placed in “Met-Rx” and other body building protein powder containers. The active ingredients were shipped from India to Mexico. The suspect would take the active ingredients to a vitamin factory in Hayward, CA., which was operated by the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels where they were compounded and pressed into pills.

A search warrant was written for the vitamin factory and a great deal of evidence was seized. This included machined metal dies to stamp out the counterfeit tablets, all of the ingredients, counterfeit labels and packaging materials. Also discovered was dies to manufacture ecstasy tablets. It was learned that the vitamin factory had previously manufactured large quantities of ecstasy, but discontinued for fear of getting caught. The operation switched to pharmaceuticals, knowing that it carries more lenient sentencing if caught.

The suspects in this investigation were prosecuted in Los Angeles. One prominent Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club member that was implicated, fled to Arizona and passed away, prior to being convicted.

Gangs and Intellectual Property Crimes

Gangs & Intellectual Property Crimes

By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants

Trademark Counterfeiting, Piracy, and other Intellectual Property Crimes are the perfect types of crimes for gang members and organized crime groups to be involved in.

The answer why is very simple. These criminals face very low risk, however the rewards are extremely great. These crimes are all about the money. Most people do not realize the money that can be made by engaging in the theft of someone’s intellectual property. Intellectual property theft is estimated to be a 500 billion dollar a year problem.

Gang members and other criminals can make more money selling counterfeit goods than by committing robberies, selling dope, or carrying out their other normal street hustling crimes. Counterfeiters can make tens of thousands of dollars a month hawking their counterfeit shoes, handbags, or other assorted products.

It is amazing how much demand exists for counterfeit goods, so this creates the “Perfect Storm” for the gangsters to make big money. If the demand is there, someone will supply what the consumer wants. Whether it is drugs, counterfeit goods, or whatever else.

The gangsters face little risk of going to prison for trademark counterfeiting or piracy; however they are making money hand over fist selling counterfeit goods. They are making the same amount of money as if they were selling kilos of Cocaine.

Remember, if you get caught selling kilos of Cocaine, you are going to prison for years. So why sell kilos of Cocaine, when you can sell counterfeit goods and make just as much money and not risk going to prison for years?

Gang members take advantage of every aspect of Intellectual Property Crimes. In areas that have high concentrations of stores and street vendors, gang members have been known to “tax” the local vendors to allow them to sell their counterfeit goods. In one case in Los Angeles, two 18th Street Gang Members were arrested after shooting and killing a three week old child.

It was reported that the 18th Street gang members approached a vendor that was selling pirated DVD movies on the street. The vendor had his new born son with him. The gang members demanded that he pay them “tax” for selling the DVDs in their area. When the vendor refused, they shot at him. The bullet that was fired struck and killed his young son.

In another case, gang members suspected that a “fellow” seller of counterfeit items had “ratted” them out to law enforcement and reveled where they were getting their counterfeit merchandise. The gangsters chased the subject down and stabbed him multiple times, then they set him on fire and left him in the street to die.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated a trademark counterfeiting case involving sunglasses, perfumes, and shoes. One of the subjects arrested turned out to be a previously deported El Monte Flores Gang member with a history of violence towards law enforcement. The subject’s father turned out to be a high ranking member of Le Eme, The Mexican Mafia. During the investigation, law enforcement seized over 2 million dollars worth of counterfeit goods.

There are many stories of hard core gang members and their associates becoming involved in trademark counterfeiting and piracy. There are documented cases involving the following gangs:

• MS-13
• 18TH Street
• East Coast Crips
• Grape Street Crips
• El Monte Flores
• 36th Street Gang
• Rough Riders
• 4 Trey Crips
• 42nd Street Little Gangsters
• Slauson Boys
• Compton Crips
• Raymond Street Crips
• Southside Montebello
• 190 East Coast Crips
• Los Carnales
• Compton Varrio 155
• Rolling 60’s
• Watergate Crips
• Skyline Pirus
• Hells Angels

The trademark counterfeiting and piracy laws are in place, however it is not often when counterfeiters are ever sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Until these gang members feel that counterfeiting is no longer worth the risk, they will continue to become deeply involved in trademark counterfeiting and piracy and reap large financial benefits.

Gang members are not stupid people, in fact they are very resourceful and creative. They are clearly learning that engaging in intellectual property theft can be very lucrative. In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in gang related trademark counterfeiting cases.

It is important to realize that Intellectual Property Crimes create a huge opportunity for the gangsters to make money to fund their other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, extortion, identity theft, murders, human trafficking, and other serious and violent crimes.

The easy opportunity that these crimes create must be taken away from these serious criminals. The gangsters must not be allowed to engage in Intellectual Property Theft to benefit their violent criminal organizations.

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