TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa woman was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for trafficking in counterfeit goods, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to court documents, in March 2011 HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at the Asia Gift Shop on East Fletcher Avenue in Tampa. The search warrant was predicated on the fact that an undercover HSI special agent had previously purchased counterfeits goods there. Jin Zheng, 39, is the co-owner and operator of the Asia Gift Shop. Zheng exclusively sold counterfeit merchandise at her store. That merchandise included clothing, jewelry, handbags and perfume featuring fake designer labels from Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Coach, Dior, Hermes, John Paul Gaultier, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Vera Wang and Versace, among others. Zheng did not charge sales tax and offered discounts for purchases made with cash.
During the initial search, HSI special agents seized more than 120 boxes of counterfeit merchandise, which included almost 6,100 items and more than 1,000 loose counterfeit designer labels. The seized items bore labels from 44 trademark holders. The value of the items, as priced and sold by Zheng from the Asia Gift Shop, is $103,428. The manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) for these items is $2 million.
During the execution of the search warrant, Zheng admitted that she sold counterfeit items at the Asia Gift Shop and that she attached counterfeit designer labels to generic handbags, which she bought in New York.
"I urge buyers to beware. Counterfeiting is not a harmless crime," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI in Tampa. "Counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses more than $200 billion each year and accounts for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs."
After pleading guilty to the original offense in November 2011, Zheng and her husband were observed selling additional counterfeit items out of another unit at the same shopping center as the Asia Gift Shop.
On Feb. 1, HSI special agents seized an additional 5,512 counterfeit items from her and her husband.
In total, special agents seized more than 11,000 counterfeit items from Zheng with a domestic value of $172,318. The MSRP of these items is more than $3 million.