SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Five individuals were indicted on charges of money laundering and trafficking counterfeit goods April 29, following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation that also led to the seizure of nearly $8 million of counterfeit luxury goods.
The defendants - Rocky R. Gonzalez-Ortiz, Maria Baez-Mojica, Miguel Perez-Martinez, Robinson Villegas- Ortiz and Wilton Mora-Vazquez - were each indicted on one count of trafficking and attempting to traffic counterfeit goods. Gonzalez-Ortiz and Baez-Mojica were additionally charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy to promote unlawful activity.
According to the indictment, starting in January 2005, the defendants knowingly purchased counterfeit luxury merchandise including watches, perfume, wallets, purses and sunglasses bearing the trademarks of Cartier, Gucci, Rolex and other designers. The defendants then sold the merchandise at a local retail business owned by Gonzalez-Ortiz and Baez-Mojica called New York Canals Street Outlet. Perez-Martinez, Villegas-Ortiz and Mora-Vazquez worked as managers and sales people at the store.
Beginning in January 2006, Gonzalez-Ortiz and Baez-Mojica also began wiring the money collected from their illegal sales of counterfeit merchandise from accounts in the United States to bank accounts in Hong Kong.
"These indictments are evidence that ICE will relentlessly pursue those who seek financial gain by violating the intellectual property rights of others," said Roberto Escobar, acting special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigation in Puerto Rico.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) violations involve the illegal use of trademarks, trade names and copyrights. It is estimated that the U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion and a total of 750,000 American jobs to counterfeiting annually.
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 is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to protect legitimate businesses involved in the manufacturing, importation and distribution of licensed commodities from unscrupulous counterfeiters.