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.

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Third Time’s the Charm

The  LAPD  teamed  up  with  the  FBI  and  HSI’s  Trade  Fraud  Group  to  take  down  a  major  distributor  of  counterfeit  goods  in  the  Southern  California  area.  The  agencies  took  the  subject  down  in  early  April  of  this  year  and  recovered  almost  $1,000,000.00  worth  of  counterfeit  handbags,  wallets,  shoes,  sunglasses  and  other  items.

The  subject  was  no  stranger  to  the  counterfeit  game  as  this  was  his  third  arrest!  Well,  the  judge  handling  his  new  case  was  not  too  happy  about  the  subject’s  repeated  bad  behavior.

Based  on  the  great  investigation  conducted  by  law  enforcement  and  the  LA  County  District  Attorney’s,  the  subject  had  no  choice  but  to  plead  guilty  to  the  charges.  He  was  promptly  sentenced  to  prison!

This  case  is  another  great  example  of  how  agencies  can  work  together  and  achieve  a  great  result!  Trademark  Counterfeiting  and  Piracy  are  a  large  part  of  the  Underground  Economy  and  are  leading  to  the  Economic  Undermining  of  America.

Do  your  part  and  buy  the  real  deal  and  support  Creation  &  Innovation.

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GANG MEMBER ARRESTED AGAIN!!

A  documented  member  of  the  Grape  Street  Crips  has  been  arrested  again  for  the sales  of  pirated  music  CDs.  Some  people  just  never  learn.  It  seems  the  lure  of  easy  money  is  just  too  hard  to  resist.

For 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimated the comprehensive results of counterfeit and pirated goods seized @ $1.74 Billion.(www.ice.gov)

In  2013,  we  saw  the  number  of  gang  members  involved  in  counterfeiting  and  piracy  grow  and  there  appears  to  be  no  end  in  sight  as  long  as  there  is  a  strong  demand  for  counterfeit  goods. Counterfeiting and piracy are not victimless crimes and do deserve to be prosecuted. The brand name companies are not the only victims in this illegal world. We all lose tax revenue and legitimate businesses lose sales to these criminals.

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ABC Nightline: Trademark Counterfeiting

ABC News: Nightline featured Investigative Consultants, for the hard work and strategic operations set out against the multimillion dollar illegal and counterfeit goods industry. Nightline followed Investigative Consultants, along with local, state, and federal law enforcement, through a couple of counterfeit apprehensions in Los Angeles and Orange County.  Both of the operations highlight a very small, but important part of the IC job; which is, protecting the creation and innovation of our clients. Counterfeiting and Piracy can be reported to Info@investigativeconsultants.com or by clicking here

To learn more about IP CrimesClick here

By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants

HOW MUCH MONEY CAN COUNTERFEITERS MAKE?

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

GANGS AND COUNTERFEIT GOODS

In 2010 and the first half of 2011, we saw a huge large increase in cases involving documented hard core gang members being involved in the sales and distribution of counterfeit and pirated goods. This trend appears to be growing and it appears that the answer why is very simple, low risk, high reward. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recently completed a trademark counterfeiting case involving an El Monte Flores gang member, who had previously been deported from the United States and has close ties to Le Eme. During this case, LASD seized over 2 million dollars worth of counterfeit merchandise, including shoes, perfumes, and sunglasses during their investigation.

The Los Angeles Police Department conducted multiple enforcement actions on a business called Now What Clothing in their Southeast Division. The location was being operated by the East Coast Crips. During the actions, LAPD recovered several handguns and 2 pounds of Marijuana, and a kilo of Methamphetamine. The Southeast Division of LAPD has also had other cases involving the Grape Street Crips and the 4 tray Crips. These cases have involved routine traffic stops and also the gangsters setting up retail stores. It appears that these stores are also being used as a front for the sales of guns and narcotics.

In LAPD’s Central Division, we have seen cases involving gang bangers from MS 13, 18th Street, 42nd Street Little Gangsters, Los Carnales and 36th Street. Most of these cases involved music piracy and luxury goods, such as handbags and sunglasses being sold in and around the Santee Alley area.

The LAPD’s Harbor Vice Unit arrested a Compton Crip, who was selling counterfeit shoes from the trunk of his car in front of a laundry mat. The gangster told law enforcement that he could make good money selling the counterfeit shoes and that no one was going to prison for it.

This is the gangster mentality when it comes to selling counterfeit merchandise. Remember, gangsters can make more money selling counterfeit goods than they can selling drugs. Intellectual property theft is growing everyday and gangsters understand that they can easily profit from what many people feel is a victimless crime. Counterfeiting and piracy hurt us all!

By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants

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The Facts of IP Crimes

The Facts of IP Crimes

Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants
The facts about Intellectual Property Crimes (IP Crimes) are really simple. IP Crimes, including trademark counterfeiting and piracy are an ever growing problem that endanger the foundation of our world and local economies. Not to mention that these crimes provide an easy source of revenue for gang members, organized crime groups, and even terrorist organizations. All of us and our communities are the victims in these types of crimes.

There is nothing positive that comes from the sales of counterfeit or pirated merchandise. In fact, everything about these crimes is negative. The people involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of counterfeit trademarked merchandise are stealing. There is no difference than going into a store and taking merchandise without paying for it. The taking of someone’s intellectual property is theft, plain and simple.

The owners and creators of Intellectual Property are creative and innovative people who have worked hard to develop and create a product to share with the world. These creative minds spend years and thousands of their hard earned dollars to create and make their dreams come true. Why should a counterfeiter be allowed to come along and steal what someone else worked so hard on to create? Trademark counterfeiting is theft!

Too many people look at counterfeiting as a victimless crime and have the mentality that it is ok because “no one is getting hurt.” People are getting hurt and people are dying from counterfeit goods every year. There are numerous cases involving counterfeit goods that have resulted in hundreds of deaths. During the investigations that Investigative Consultants has conducted over the past 15 years, we have seen some very serious cases.

Counterfeiters have been known to use child labor in their production of the counterfeit goods. There have been cases where the workers making the counterfeit goods have been locked inside of factories. If there were a fire, the workers would have no way of escaping. The disregard that counterfeiters and pirates have for human life is amazing. The only thing the counterfeiters care about is the money and nothing else.

Our economy suffers in many ways. We are losing billions of dollars a year in lost tax revenue. Most counterfeiters are not paying their fair share of taxes, if any at all. There have been numerous cases where counterfeiters claim they make $ 12,000 a year, however have millions of dollars a year going through their bank accounts. The math never adds up.

During an investigation of a “street vendor” in Los Angeles, who sold pirated music, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the vendor’s home. Law enforcement located over $ 40,000 in cash and $ 700,000 in bank accounts, along with several thousand pirated music CDs. Law enforcement also learned that the subject owned the home, valued at $ 330,000 outright. The problem is the subject was also collecting public assistance and did not pay taxes.

There have been numerous cases, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash have been recovered from the subjects of a counterfeiting investigation, who claim that they were “barely surviving” or they were just trying to “feed their kids.” Do not believe the tall tales that counterfeiters tell of poverty and “just getting by.” The counterfeiters are not legitimately contributing to our economy or to our communities.
In many cases, counterfeiters and pirates are paying their employees “under the table” and do not provide benefits or pay into Social Security or Workers Compensation. Counterfeiters will argue that they are creating jobs. However, aren’t all employees entitled to the protections that the law provides? When these workers are working for counterfeiters, they are often subjected to poor and dangerous working conditions. Most of these criminal organizations care nothing for the well being of the people working for them and are only concerned with their employees making them money.

How can legitimate small business owners compete with the businesses in their area selling counterfeit goods?