SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents, working jointly with Puerto Rico Police Department, San Juan Municipal Police, Puerto Rico Bureau of Special Investigations, Department of Housing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America and U.S. Marshals Service, arrested 19 men and five women this morning for violations to intellectual property rights and copyright laws.
The group was arrested for producing and selling counterfeit CDs and DVDs at flea markets around Puerto Rico.
The arrests took place in the Puerto Rico municipalities of Gurabo, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Barceloneta, Arecibo, Mayaguez, Florida, Hatillo, Aguadilla, and Carolina.
On Nov. 4, 2007, with the assistance of local, state and federal partners, ICE launched Operation Digital Pirates, an investigative initiative into the identification of intellectual property rights (IPR) violations, at a flea market in the Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
More than 90,000 copies of counterfeit CDs and DVDs were seized from vendors at the flea market.
Although there were no arrests during the Nov. 2007 operation, ICE special agents interviewed the alleged owners of approximately 32 kiosks with counterfeit merchandise to advise them of their violation of the law.
This morning, ICE and its local, state and federal partners arrested 24 men and women identified during the Nov. 2007 operation.
Among those arrested are:
- Peter Tosado-Negron, 23, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Jael Nieves-Santana, 28, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Carlos Castro-Pagan, 29, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Ismael Roque-Velez, 27, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Osvaldo Colon-Figueroa, 27, of Vega Baya, Puerto Rico
- Noel Vega-Morales, 30, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
- Jackeline Roman-Montijo, 37, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico
- Johann Martinez-Santana, 23, of Florida, Puerto Rico
- Josean Figueroa-Bonilla, 23, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
- Christian Torres-Quinones, 22, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico
- Axayra Cardona-Gonzalez, 20, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico
- Nelson Bravo Marrero, 32, of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico
- Ricardo Santos-Martin, 29, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Miguel Bravo-Marrero, 27, of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico
- Abby Bravo-Marrero, 24, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico
- Milton Lozada-Martinez, 35, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Arvin Torres-Garcia, 32, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Kathia Vega Correa, 23, of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
- Leonel Torres-Rodriguez, 21, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico
- Ivelisse Cabrera Feliciano, 38, of Hatillo, Puerto Rico
- Dennis Tirado-Sanchez, 28, of Hatillo, Puerto Rico
- Angel Centeno-Caro, 22, of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
- Yomayra Vargas-Torres, 23, of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
- Carlos Morales-Cepeda, 26, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
"Investigating those who produce, sell and distribute pirated or counterfeit merchandise is an important role of ICE," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "Counterfeiters cost legitimate businesses billions in lost revenue. The illicit proceeds from counterfeiting are also routinely used to support other criminal activities in the U.S. and around the world."
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison.
Since its inception, Operation Digital Pirates has netted more than 300,000 counterfeit CDs and DVDs with an estimated street value of approximately $3 million.
In recent years, counterfeiting, piracy, and other IPR violations have grown in magnitude and complexity, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue and often posing health and safety risks to U.S. consumers. Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion per year, a total of 750,000 American jobs.
The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of enabling technology allowing for simple and low-cost duplication of copyrighted products, as well as by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit. In many cases, the enormous profits realized from the sale of counterfeit goods are used by international organized crime groups to bankroll other criminal activities, such as the trafficking in illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.