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Intellectual Property Rights

7 arrested in counterfeit merchandise trafficking operation

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., of the Western District of New York, announced Sept. 30 the arrest of seven people in a large counterfeit merchandise trafficking operation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents and investigators from the Special Investigations Unit of the New York State Police made the arrests.

Arrested were Fan Zhang, 38, Deno Delregno, 48, Zhang Chi, 31, Zhang Qing Fu, 65, Chen Xiu Ying, 62, Gina Hurlbert, 54, and Suzanne Pelow, all residents of Rochester, N.Y. All are charged with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or both.

"Individuals who engage in trafficking of counterfeit goods are on notice that Homeland Security Investigations agents will use all of the investigative tools at our disposal to arrest and bring them to justice," said Lev Kubiak, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in Buffalo.

"Every business owner should have the expectation that they can compete fairly in the marketplace," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "When individuals get into the business of producing and selling "knock off" goods, it hurts not only legitimate businesses but also consumers who may not be aware they are getting a "fake." This case should also serve as a warning to buyers that if a deal for a name brand product sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

According to court documents, Fan Zhang and her husband made bi-monthly trips to New York City to purchase counterfeit Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Gucci purses, handbags, wallets and sunglasses from various locations. Zhang and her husband then transported the counterfeit merchandise to Rochester and supplied numerous western New York businesses and individuals with the counterfeit products.

HSI estimates that three of the companies involved in the conspiracy imported in excess of one million items into the United States from nine separate Chinese companies over a one-year period. The goods were then distributed to various wholesalers and retailers for distribution.

The arrests are the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents from Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Lev Kubiak as well as HSI Agents from New York City and Newark, New Jersey and the Special Investigations Unit of the New York State Police under the direction of Major Matthew S. Renneman.

Over 36 hours, federal and state authorities also simultaneously executed search warrants in 11 locations in Rochester, the New York metropolitan area and Secaucus, N.J. Authorities stated that while a complete accounting of the seized merchandise has yet to be completed, a total of 23 tractor trailer loads of suspected counterfeit goods were seized. In addition to the previously mentioned items, other counterfeit goods seized included Major League Baseball caps, watches and jewelry.

Report information on counterfeiting and trademark violations to the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at (866) IPR-2060.