MINNEAPOLIS - Four Minnesotans pleaded guilty on Wednesday to trafficking counterfeit goods, including NFL and NHL jerseys, and "Nike" sports apparel, announced U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, District of Minnesota. The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Charles Freddie Thompson, 40, and his wife, Patricia Ann Thompson, 38, both of Long Prairie, Minn., William Clifford Bakken, 67, of Plymouth, Minn., and Robert Anthony Ingebretson, 49, of Alexandria, Minn., appeared before U. S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim on Wednesday. All pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, following their indictment on April 21.
"Anyone who sells counterfeit goods to unsuspecting sports fans will be held accountable," said William H. Lowder, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of HSI in Bloomington, Minn. "Vendors selling inferior items tarnish the reputation of trademark holders like the NFL and NHL. Trafficking counterfeit goods is a global enterprise that robs legitimate companies of billions of dollars in revenue every year."
According to court documents, the defendants admitted that they conspired to traffic in counterfeit trademarked sports apparel from September 2007 through December 2009. Charles Thompson admitted ordering counterfeit apparel from his suppliers in China and elsewhere, and having the items shipped to his residence and other residences.
Thompson also admitted having an agreement with Bakken, Ingebretson and others to purchase the counterfeit apparel, knowing it would be resold for profit. In addition, Charles Thompson recruited others to help him wire money to China to pay for the counterfeit goods.
Charles Thompson recruited his wife, who admitted wiring money to China to pay a total of $51,975 for counterfeit sportswear on 21 occasions between Jan. 22, 2008, and July 10, 2009. Patricia Thompson also admitted that on Nov. 23, 2009, she accepted delivery at her residence of 11 parcels from China containing a total of 133 counterfeit NFL jerseys.
Bakken admitted purchasing counterfeit items from Charles Thompson in order to resell them for profit. On Nov. 23, 2009, he was present at Charles Thompson's residence when law enforcement officers executed a search warrant. Bakken admitted he was purchasing about $2,500 worth of counterfeit apparel when officers interrupted the transaction. Police found 146 counterfeit items in Bakken's vehicle.
In his plea agreement, Ingebretson admitted participating in the conspiracy from December 2008 through December 2009. In addition, he admitted that 123 counterfeit NFL jerseys, 13 counterfeit NHL jerseys, and four counterfeit NFL T-shirts were seized at his Alexandria-based store, "Sportsminded," on Dec. 1, 2009.
For their crimes, all four defendants face a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled. Prosecution continues against the remaining co-defendants.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Paulsen, District of Minnesota, prosecuted this case.