PEORIA, Ill. – Two women were sentenced in federal court Monday for conspiring to traffic counterfeit merchandise in the Rockford, Ill., area. The sentences resulted from a joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bloomington Police Department, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Jannette Grant, 51, of Bloomington, Ill., and Kimberly Nein, 50, of Argenta, Ill., who did business as "The Purse Lady," were sentenced Aug. 13 for trafficking in counterfeit goods. U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade, Central District of Illinois, sentenced Grant to 36 months in federal prison; and sentenced Nein to serve 24 months in federal prison. Both women were ordered to pay $3,879 restitution. They will report to the Bureau of Prisons Oct. 9 to begin serving their respective prison terms.
On April 25, Grant and Nein each waived indictment and pleaded guilty to operating a business known as "The Purse Lady" that sold counterfeit items bearing various trademarks, including: Coach, Kate Spade, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Dooney & Bourke, Prada, Tiffany & Co., and others. Goods were sold throughout central Illinois, including at various businesses, home parties, also known as "purse parties," through the mail, and at an Argenta warehouse owned by Nein.
Grant and Nein admitted they regularly traveled to Chicago and New York to purchase inventory. According to court documents, Grant and Nein advertised their items for sale as "replica/knockoff," and stated that all references to brands were for "entertainment and novelty purposes only," and "these companies are not affiliated with us in any way."
During search warrants executed by law enforcement officers May 12 at Grant's home and at Nein's Argenta warehouse, officers recovered more than 15,000 counterfeit items with a total estimated manufacturer's suggested retail price of about $1.6 million. The seized luxury goods included 2,000 purses, 900 wallets, 400 sunglasses, 10,900 emblems and medallions, and other items.
Officers recovered various items that Grant surrendered, including a 2008 Dodge Caravan, a 2003 BMW, and $18,052 in currency at her home. Officers also recovered $4,487 from the business's bank account and $80,000 held in a safe deposit box. Grant previously agreed to forfeit $47,522, the amount Grant had paid on two homes in Bloomington, Ill., in lieu of forfeiting real estate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Darilynn J. Knauss, Central District of Illinois, prosecuted this case.