It all started with a lead from a citizen informant and lead to the “take down” of the largest manufacturing facility that had been producing all types of counterfeit merchandise for the past ten years in Southern California. The lead came into the LAPD’s Anti Piracy Unit simply as a non-descript warehouse type building in the City of Lynwood, California that was producing large quantities of counterfeit True Religion jeans along with other clothing items. This information was passed on to Investigators to determine the credibility of the information and if the location was authorized to produce the trademarked items. An undercover Investigator was assigned to the case and after a while, was able to gain the trust of the factory owners by posing as a customer that wanted to have her own line of clothing produced. The subject’s jumped at the chance to do business with her and offered to show her around their factory. Not a very smart decision on their part. The undercover Investigator received a “tour” of the majority of the facility when she saw the subject’s making various types of counterfeit merchandise inside. The Investigator was overwhelmed with what she observed. The Investigator revisited the location on several occasions, and each time observed counterfeit activity taking place inside. The Investigator was also able to make multiple undercover purchases from the subjects of various counterfeit items. The information was provided to the LAPD, who also determined that illicit activity was taking place at the location. Detectives obtained a search warrant for the location and soon after, the warrant was served. I don’t think the LAPD or anyone else realized the true scope of the massive operation until seeing it for themselves.
The facility was equipped with three massive embroidery machines, two 20 head machines, 15 head machine, multiple sewing machines used to make counterfeit True Religion Jeans. The location also had a silk screening operation which included a multi station silk screening machine and a large dryer. The subjects had hundreds of silk screens with countless counterfeit designs. The operation was extremely impressive and was a “one stop shop” to manufacture any type of counterfeit clothing items. The operator of the factory was arrested and quickly charged with trademark counterfeiting. The subject pleaded guilty and was subsequently sentenced. Great job LAPD!
Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants
An alert Phoenix Police Officer answered a burglary call at a business that offered tax preparation services and cellular phones for sale. The officer arrived at the location and while checking for evidence of a break in, he located a back room that was full of designer handbags. This did not seem right to the officer. The Officer made note of his observations and passed the information along to detectives that had experience in handling counterfeit cases. Detectives contacted Investigators and advised them of the Officer’s observations. An Investigator traveled to the location in an undercover capacity. When the Investigator entered the location, she did not see any handbags displayed for sale. After speaking to the owner of the location for several minutes and trying to convince her that a “friend” referred her to the location to purchase handbags, the owner finally allowed the Investigator into the back room where the counterfeit handbags were. The Investigator observed counterfeit handbags and jewelry displayed inside the room. The Investigator made a purchase from the owner. The information was provided to Phoenix Detectives, who obtained a warrant for the location. Detectives served the warrant at the location and recovered a large quantity of counterfeit merchandise from the location. Detectives also found several blank Social Security cards and other information that indicated that other types of criminal activity was taking place at the location. The husband and wife team that were operating the business were arrested. The investigation is ongoing.
By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants
The common perception is “not much.” Well that’s not true. Those involved in intellectual property crimes, such as music piracy and the sales of counterfeit products can make huge amounts of money. Trademark law and other laws are designed to protect the rights of every person, who creates and innovates. In one music piracy case alone, the subject, who we will call “Angelica” was involved in what appeared to be the low level street sales of pirated music.
I remember myself feeling sorry for her thinking, well she is just trying to make a living and she seemed like such a nice lady. We all know “the ends do not justify the means” and intellectual property crimes hurt us all in so many ways. Angelica appeared to be so nice and unassuming. Well after being arrested a couple of times for selling pirated music on the streets of Los Angeles and being served with over 15 cease and desist notices, law enforcement served a search warrant at her house. Guess what? They found several thousand pirated music CDs, along with $ 40,000 in cash. The cops also found records that Angelica had over $ 700,000 cash in bank accounts and that she owned her $ 300,000 home outright. If that was not enough, turns out that she was on public assistance and obviously not paying her fair share of taxes. During the search, law enforcement also found information and evidence that Angelica was involved in loan sharking activities. This is one of many stories like this.
Guess what? “Angelica” was just arrested AGAIN on August 06, 2011 on piracy charges. I guess the money has just been too good for her to just walk away.
By Investigative Consultants