LOS ANGELES – A Lakewood, Calif., man surrendered to federal authorities Monday to begin serving a 37-month prison sentence for importing more than 1,000 counterfeit Microsoft Office CD-ROMs and selling them to unsuspecting customers over the Internet.
Collier Bennett Harper, 31, was formally sentenced Sept. 24 by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter. In addition to the prison term, Judge Walter ordered Harper to pay $370,000 in restitution to Microsoft. Harper pleaded guilty May 21 to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods.
The charge was the result of a probe launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) following the seizure of two shipments of Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2007 software CD-ROMs that were ultimately traced to Harper.
HSI's investigation revealed that Harper would contact reputable dealers on eBay and hire them to sell the counterfeit software. According to investigators, Harper instructed the sellers how to list the software, describing the product as "new" and authentic. The sellers would provide Harper with the payment and the customers' addresses, and the defendant would ship the counterfeit software to the unsuspecting buyers. Based on evidence gathered during the probe, investigators believe nearly 1,000 counterfeit software packages were sold.
"This sentence should serve as a stern warning for those who traffic in counterfeit goods that there will be serious consequences for those crimes," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Product counterfeiting and piracy amount to economic sabotage and HSI will move aggressively to target those who seek to profit from it."
Investigators estimate, based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price, the seized software would have retailed for approximately $370,000 had it been genuine.