JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Six individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged participation in a counterfeit merchandise trafficking scheme following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigation.
According to the indictment, Fred Yassen, 59, Anna Cai, 21, Bassirou Willane, 48, Young Jong Kim, 26, Ying Jie Zhou, 24, and Chun Hua Zheng, 35, all from Jacksonville, Fla., allegedly sold counterfeit Chanel, Gucci, Nike, Versace, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and other trademarked goods and apparel at various venues in Florida.
The maximum penalty each defendant faces is up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $2 million fine.
The problem of counterfeiting and piracy, once seen by some as relatively harmless crimes, has grown in both magnitude and complexity. Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 billion and $250 billion per year and a total of 750,000 American jobs. Some estimates indicate that 5 percent to 8 percent of all the goods and merchandise sold worldwide are counterfeit.
ICE, along with its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partner U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), made nearly 14,000 seizures last fiscal year. ICE investigations in fiscal year 2007, resulted in 241 arrests, 149 indictments and 134 convictions on IPR violations. During fiscal year 2007, ICE and CBP seized counterfeit or pirated merchandize worth approximately $200 million in domestic value, exceeding the value of the previous year's seizures by 27 percent.
In July 2008, ICE inaugurated the new facilities of its Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center. The Center has been the federal government's central point of contact in the fight against IPR violators and the flow of counterfeit goods into the commerce of the United States since 2000. The new center in Northern Virginia is the high-tech home of a partnership between government, private industry and law enforcement communities. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Russell C. Stoddard.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has violated a federal criminal law. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.