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Intellectual Property Rights
07/28/2011

Homeland Security Investigations brings counterfeit designers to heel

Project "Shoe Clerk" is the 6th phase of "Operation in Our Sites" which protects consumers from counterfeit goods - yields an arrest in upstate New York

WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served court orders seizing 17 domain names of websites selling counterfeit goods over the Internet and arrested an upstate New York man for producing and selling counterfeit goods.

This operation, dubbed "Shoe Clerk," is the sixth phase of "Operation in Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.

The 17 domain names seized were all commercial websites engaged in illegally selling and distributing counterfeit goods. During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. Purchased counterfeit items included shoes, boots, sneakers, jackets, shirts, hats and sunglasses.

Once the materials were confirmed to be counterfeit or otherwise illegal, HSI agents obtained from federal magistrate judges seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold or distributed the items. In most instances, the counterfeit goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. The 17 websites have all been shut down, and now show a banner stating that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

The seized counterfeit items represent 13 name brands: Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lacoste, New Era, Nike, The North Face, Oakley, PUMA, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Sons of Anarchy, Tory Burch and UGG.

Following is a list of the 17 seized websites:

  • discountedoakleysunglasses.com
  • onlypuma.com
  • ralphlauren-polos.org
  • solesold.com
  • toryburchsoutlets.org
  • toryburchsoutletsale.net
  • ventma.com
  • choosepuma.com
  • ebayshoppingjoy.com
  • lacosteshoesmall.com
  • menlacosteshoes.com
  • newerahatsnow.com
  • newerahatss.com
  • pumaforever.com
  • replicaoakleysunglasses.net
  • shoplacosteshoes.com
  • sneaker-space.com

As part of the operation, Ryan Breen, 31, of Savannah, NY, was arrested and charged with using the Internet to traffic in counterfeit goods. Breen was identified as the owner and operator of a website seized in this operation that sold unauthorized apparel from the FX Network series "Sons of Anarchy." The website offered counterfeit t-shirts for sale using the show's trademark brand without the permission of the Fox Broadcasting Company. If convicted, Breen faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

This nationwide operation was spearheaded by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center); as well as HSI offices in Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, Detroit and Houston and in coordination with the following U.S. Attorneys' offices: District of Maryland, Western District of New York, District of Colorado, Eastern District of Michigan, and Southern District of Texas.

"American business is under assault from counterfeiters," said ICE Director John Morton. "These counterfeits 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. HSI and our partners at the IPR Center will continue to work together to keep counterfeit products off our streets."

"Legitimate creators, performers and craftspeople who grow and support the economy through their hard work and talents must have their intellectual property protected," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Western District of New York. "In today's age, the theft of another's property, to include one's ideas, is just as likely to occur over the Internet as it is on the streets of a community. By using court-ordered warrants to 'seize' a particular website or domain, our office is using 21st century techniques to combat criminals operating in the virtual world."

"We take the protection of our intellectual property very seriously and we applaud the efforts of ICE in the battle against counterfeiting," commented Mei-lan Stark, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation's Senior Vice President of Intellectual Property. "We hope this arrest sends a clear message that stealing our valuable properties will not be tolerated."

To learn more about the IPR Center, or to report IP theft, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.