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Intellectual Property Rights

3 conspirators plead guilty to smuggling counterfeit goods through the Port of Baltimore

BALTIMORE - Three individuals plead guilty in federal court to conspiring to smuggle into the United States counterfeit shoes, handbags and wrist watches manufactured in Malaysia and China and trafficking in counterfeit goods. The guilty pleas resulted from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Kim Yip Ng, aka "James Lee," 43, of Whitestone, N.Y.; Lidan Zhang, aka "Mrs. Li," 39, of the People's Republic of China; and Josephine O. Zhou, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty in separate hearings.

Ng pleaded guilty on Dec. 2, Zhou pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 and Zhang pleaded guilty on Nov. 30.

According to their guilty pleas, from 2008 to 2010 the defendants conspired to smuggle counterfeit Coach handbags manufactured in China and elsewhere into the United States for sale. Part of the sales proceeds were returned to manufacturers and middlemen in China to pay for additional counterfeit goods.

The defendants and their co-conspirators paid thousands of dollars in smuggling fees to an undercover business located in Maryland to clear counterfeit clothing and accessories through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Port of Baltimore and deliver the goods to customers in the United States. On Oct. 15, 2009, Zhou received a container loaded with approximately 25,000 counterfeit Coach handbags through the undercover business. On Dec. 10, 2009, Ng and Zhang received a container loaded with approximately 25,000 counterfeit Coach handbags through the undercover business. The defendants admit that the counterfeit handbags were sold to other vendors and to the general public.

The defendants admit that the loss attributable to the counterfeited merchandise was between $400,000 and $1 million. As part of their plea agreements, Zhang agrees to forfeit $49,000 seized at the time of her arrest in March 2010 and a BMW sedan; and NG agrees to forfeit a mini-van.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and a maximum of 10 years in prison for trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James G. Warwick is prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information related to counterfeit merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. The public may call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1 (866) DHS-2ICE.