Boi Quoc Vo, 30, of Anaheim, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of trafficking in counterfeit documentation. Vo's sentencing is scheduled for March 3, 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss resulting from the scam, whichever is greater. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. The guilty plea is the latest development in a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to the plea agreement, Vo obtained legitimate electronic discount coupons Kohl's issued to customers who signed up for the retailer's email marketing service. Vo admitted he altered security features in the coupons, which were designed to prevent their duplication and repeated use. He then made thousands of copies of the coupons and sold them on eBay, employing several different accounts with user names that concealed his identity.
"It's common to encounter intellectual property cases related to phony products, but this is the first time we've come across a scheme locally involving counterfeit store coupons," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Regardless, the consequences of these schemes are the same – the criminals profit while legitimate companies pay the price."
In the plea agreement, Vo admits he made approximately $93,000 from the sale of the counterfeit coupons.
The probe into the scam began last year after the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Virginia received a lead linking Vo to the possible sale of counterfeit coupons. As the case moved forward, Orange County-based HSI special agents worked closely with eBay and loss prevention personnel from Kohl's.