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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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


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



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?


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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