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Intellectual Property Rights
06/20/2011

Baltimore store owner sentenced to 30 months in prison for selling counterfeit luxury apparel and accessories

3,600 counterfeit items seized from three stores worth over $400,000

BALTIMORE – A Maryland man was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for selling counterfeit items with brand names such as Coach, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Polo and Nike. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Maryland State Police and Baltimore County Police Department.

Marvin Anthony Johnson, 47, of Baltimore, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake for trafficking in counterfeit goods. Johnson is also required Johnson to forfeit $23,957 in unlawful proceeds seized by law enforcement in September 2010.

The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI in Baltimore; Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.

"Counterfeiters like Mr. Johnson rip off consumers by selling sub-standard products," said Special Agent in Charge Winter. "The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for HSI, as counterfeit products represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy and sometimes dangerous, goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities and by denying Americans good-paying jobs."

According to his guilty plea, Johnson owned and operated a retail store known as "Prestigious Fashions" located at 501-A Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore; a sales booth known as "Marvin's Prestigious" located within the North Point Flea Market on North Point Road in Baltimore; and another sales booth within Hunter's Sales Barn, located on Jacob Tome Memorial Highway in Port Deposit, Md. From July to Sept. 3, 2010, Johnson sold counterfeit luxury apparel and accessories from those stores that bore trademarks identical to trademarks used by Coach, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Polo and Nike.

In August 2010, undercover Baltimore County Police officers twice purchased counterfeit goods from Johnson at the two sales booths. Johnson said the items were "fake" and also told undercover officers that he hosts "purse parties" in order to sell the counterfeit items. Baltimore County police officers observed Johnson selling other counterfeit goods.

On Sept. 2 and 3, 2010, law enforcement executed search warrants at six locations and vehicles associated with Johnson and seized approximately 3,600 items of counterfeit luxury wearing apparel and accessories with the above stated brand names, among others. The lost retail value, or infringement amount, of the goods seized is estimated to be between $400,000 and $1 million. Officers also seized approximately $23,957 in cash. Also located in Johnson's van was a cease and desist letter from Coach, directed at the owners/operators of a flea market, and outlines the illegalities of selling counterfeit goods. Johnson’s handwriting appeared on the back of the letter in which he made notations regarding further sales of counterfeit goods.

The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) stands at the forefront of the U.S. Government’s response to global intellectual property (IP) theft. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters. To learn more about IP theft, please visit www.IPRCenter.gov.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended ICE HSI, Maryland State Police and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation.

Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson who prosecuted the case.