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Intellectual Property Rights

Michigan computer company, owner sentenced for international environmental and counterfeiting crimes

DETROIT – A Michigan computer company, along with its owner, were sentenced today for trafficking in counterfeit goods and services and violating environmental laws. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division.

Mark Jeffrey Glover and his company, Discount Computers Inc. (DCI), were sentenced for trafficking in counterfeit goods and services. DCI was also sentenced for storing and disposing of hazardous waste without a permit. DCI received a $2 million fine and must pay $10,839 in restitution.

Glover was sentenced to 30 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. He must additionally pay a $10,000 fine. Glover pleaded guilty to the charges on behalf of his company and himself in October 2012.

DCI, headquartered in Canton, Mich., with warehouses in Maryland Heights, Mo., and Dayton, N.J., operated as a broker of used electronic components, such as computers and televisions. DCI resold working items and disassembled broken ones, selling them for scrap. A large part of DCI's business involved exporting used cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors to Middle East and Asian countries.

Egypt prohibits the importation of computer equipment which is more than five years old. To evade this requirement, all three DCI locations replaced original factory labels on used CRT monitors with counterfeit labels which reflected a more recent manufacture date. Over a five-period, DCI sent at least 300 shipments to Egypt, with a total shipment value of at least $2.1 million, constituting more than 100,000 used CRTs monitors.

Federal law makes it illegal to knowingly use a counterfeit mark on or in connection with goods and services for the purpose of deceit or confusion. It is also illegal to store and dispose of hazardous waste, which includes certain electronic waste, or e-waste, without a permit. Glass from older CRT monitors is known to contain levels of lead, which is toxic hazardous waste. When deposited in a landfill the lead can leach out and contaminate drinking water supplies.

As a result, these types of monitors are required to be disposed of as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. By exporting older CRTs with fraudulent manufacture dates, Glover sent a large quantity of older e-waste overseas which was subject to improper recycling, increasing the potential for environmental and human exposure to hazardous materials.

"Mr. Glover and his company falsified labels to conceal the age of computer monitors and their potential for hazardous waste," said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, Eastern District of Michigan. "We hope this case will encourage others to with laws designed to protect drinking water and prevent human exposure to toxic waste."

"When potentially hazardous e-waste is not properly disposed of, human lives can seriously be impacted," said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit. "The investigation confirmed that the defendant repeatedly and illegally exported used cathode ray tubes overseas. HSI stands with our law enforcement partners ready to prevent any company from ignoring U.S. controls to export hazardous e-waste."

"It is a serious and costly offense to abandon hazardous waste," said Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. "Furthermore it is a serious offense to engage in the illegal export of e-waste as this has potential for environmental and human exposure to hazardous materials. It is because of these types of environmental and human health threats that the EPA has designated illegal export of e-waste one of its top six international priorities. Those who engage in this type of behavior put the public and the environment at risk, and will be prosecuted."

E-waste is a global concern because used electronic equipment contains more than 1,000 different substances including toxic heavy metals and organics that, if disposed of improperly, can cause significant pollution problems. Improper e-waste disposal is common in third world and developing countries because they are ill equipped for proper recycling, refurbishing, and disposal. It is also common in these countries to find black market recycling groups that extract valuable metals from e-waste without regard for the safety of their impoverished employees who are exposed directly to toxic materials.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell, Eastern District of Michigan, prosecuted this case on behalf of the U.S. government.

The case was investigated by special agents with HSI and the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division.