Designer Watch and Sunglasses Counterfeiter Taken Down by TRaCE

Los Angeles – An investigation by the state’s Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement (TRaCE) Task Force led to the arrest of Armando Robledo, 34, of Los Angeles, on five felony counts of counterfeiting. The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Piracy Unit arrested Robledo on November 21, 2014. Robledo was arrested and booked into the Los Angeles County Jail, where he posted $50,000 bail. He is ordered to appear in Sacramento County Court this month, with Deputy Attorney General and TRaCE prosecutor Peter Williams leading the prosecution.

In April, Investigative Consultants (IC), a private investigation company specializing in intellectual property investigations and enforcement, contacted TRaCE to initiate a criminal investigation of Robledo. He is suspected of retailing high-end counterfeit goods and was selling thousands of watches with brand names such as Rolex,Breitling, and Chanel. TRaCE and IC together purchased several of these watches, with a total retail value of more than $100,000, while undercover in Sacramento. They also purchased counterfeit Ray Ban, Luis Vuitton, and Chanel sunglasses from Robledo during the course of several months.

On October 7, 2014, TRaCE and the LAPD served a search warrant on Robledo’s business and nearby storage locker in the Santee Alley area of Los Angeles. The locker contained an estimated $300,000 worth of counterfeit Gucci, Dior, Prada, and other high-end brand sunglasses which were confiscated as evidence – one of the largest seizures of its kind in California in the last few years.

Consumers should take care to avoid counterfeit merchandise. It is often inferior, and its purchase supports those who steal designers’ ideas and take jobs from workers who manufacture legitimate products.

“Not only does the underground economy cost all taxpayers roughly $8.5 billion every year in funds for public services, but also thousands of jobs which could further help our state’s economy,” said Chairman Jerome E. Horton. “Consumers can help TRaCE combat the underground economy – Report it, Don’t ignore it!”

“Local law enforcement and public involvement are vital in our fight against the underground economy,” said Board of Equalization Member George Runner. “We welcome all leads and tips, as they are essential to our efforts to protect law-abiding business owners and taxpayers.”

To download a form to report criminal activities such as tax evasion and counterfeiting, visit http://www.boe.ca.gov/trace. The TRaCE Task Force reviews all leads reported for full investigation, or as applicable, referral to the appropriate state, local, or federal law enforcement agency to address.

The Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force (TRaCE) is comprised of public officials from the Department of Justice, Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Employment Development Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The mission of the TRaCE Task Force is to combat organized elements of the underground economy engaged in the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of pirated intellectual property, and other economic crimes resulting in the evasion of business, payroll and/or income taxes.

For more information about TRaCE or to report a crime, visit http://www.boe.ca.gov/trace.

ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT “HOSTS” A PURSE PARTY

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has been a driving force in pursuing trademark counterfeiting cases in Northern California. Their efforts have been outstanding over the past few years.

The case all started when an observant Investigator observed a sign on the side of a van asking people to host a replica purse party. Not such a bright idea if you are committing a crime and don’t want to be arrested.

Investigators made contact with the subject and made multiple undercover purchases from her. The subject admitted that all the items she was selling were counterfeit and she also stated that she knew it was against the law to be selling the items.

It was learned during the investigation that the subject was hosting her purse parties at high schools, country clubs, charity events, coffee shops, and wineries. It is amazing that the subject was able to sell her illicit goods in such venues, considering that the venues could also be held civilly liable for the activities conducted on their properties.

There have been multiple civil cases against swap meets, flea markets and other property owners for allowing the sale of counterfeit goods on their properties. Several brand owners have secured multimillion dollar awards. Property owners and landlords need to be very diligent to ensure that counterfeit goods are not sold on their properties.

Investigators arranged to “host” a purse party at a local hotel. The subject whole heartedly agreed and showed up for the party with a cache of counterfeit goods. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department ended the party by seizing all the counterfeit goods and cutting the “party” short.

The efforts in Alameda County have been outstanding.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants

Gangs and Counterfeiting

The  problem  continues  to  grow  as  gangs  and  other  criminal  organizations  continue  to  realize  that  trademark  counterfeiting,  piracy  and  other  intellectual  property  crimes  present  great  opportunities  to  make  lots  of  cold  hard  cash.

These  criminals  see  the  opportunities  and  they  quickly  jump  on  them.  There  is  no  shortage  of  willing  consumers  to  buy  the  latest  knock  off  handbag  or  pirated  music  CD  and  the  gangsters  know  it.

The  LAPD  and  FBI  recently  arrested  a  gang  member  from  Florencia  13.  The  gangster,  known  as  “Flaco”    had  already  been  arrested  and  prosecuted  by  local  authorities  once,  but  like  many  others  he  was  lured  back  to  the  counterfeit  trade  because  of  the  large  profits.   

Flaco  was  prosecuted  federally  and  convicted.  He  will  serve  time  in  federal  prison  and  then  he  will  likely  be  receiving  a  free  ride  outside  of  the  United  States  as  he  was  not  in  the  USA  legally.     

The  public  needs  to  be  educated  that  the  profits  from  the  sales  of  counterfeit  goods  are  going  to  gangs,  such  as  Florencia  13,  MS  13,  18TH  Street,  The  Bloods,  The  Crips,  and  the  Mexican  Mafia.

 We  applaud  the  outstanding  efforts  to  address  the  problem  of  intellectual  property  crimes  as  it  is  not  always  seen  as  a  serious  crime,  however  those  that  are  in  the  “know”  understand  how  serious  these  crimes  really  are  and  how  these  crimes  are  a  major  source  to  gangs,  organized  crimes  groups,  and  terrorist  organizations.

 Here is a link to a short clip on our YouTube channel explaining a little bit more about the relationships that gangs and counterfeiters have.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fake Electronics

From fake headphones to knock-off chargers, bogus iPods and counterfeit extension cords, Los Angeles police officers say counterfeit electronics are flooding the national market with potentially deadly consequences.  These fake electronics can cause great harm to someone, and even their families and homes.  Counterfeit extension cords have been tested to prove that they can melt through the plastic surrounding the copper cords and start fires in homes very rapidly.  Fake headphones have been proven to have pieces break off in the users ear requiring trips to the emergency room.  The bottom line here is counterfeit electronics are extremely dangerous.  It is not worth saving a couple bucks here and there when in turn it could put you or your whole families health and safety on the line. Here is a link to a short clip from ABC7 news on counterfeit electronics.

If you find someone selling these products please do not hesitate to contact us on our website at http://www.investigativeconsultants.com. 

Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants