MINNEAPOLIS - A federal grand jury in Minneapolis has returned an indictment against six Minnesotans, charging each with one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. This case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Individuals charged include Charles Freddie Thompson, 40; his wife, Patricia Ann Thompson, 38; and his father, Darrell Leroy Thompson, 67, all of Long Prairie. Also charged was William Clifford Bakken, 66, of Plymouth; Robert Antony Ingebretson, 49, of Alexandria; and James William Braun, Jr., 41, of Milaca. The indictment was unsealed following the initial court appearance of five of the defendants on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Patricia Ann Thompson will make her first appearance on Friday.
The indictment alleges that between September 2007 and December 2009, the defendants conspired to traffic counterfeit sportswear including NFL, NHL jerseys and Nike sports apparel. According to court documents, Charles Thompson acquired the sportswear from sources in China, paying for the shipments through Western Union wire transfers. Between October 2007 and January 2009, he reportedly sent 50 such payments, totaling about $97,532. In an effort to avoid detection, he also allegedly recruited others to pay for shipments, instructing them to keep each individual payment under $2,500 to circumvent currency reporting requirements. Between January 2008 and July 2009, his wife purportedly wired about 21 payments to Chinese sources, each in the amount of $2,475, totaling $51,975.
"The trafficking of illicit merchandise deprives legitimate businesses of billions of dollars each year," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Bloomington, Minn. "Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods often support criminal enterprises here and abroad. America's counterfeiting laws are in place to protect the consumer, as well as those who hold the rights to the products."
Charles Thompson allegedly shipped the counterfeit sportswear from China to various properties he owned or controlled in Minnesota. On Nov. 23, 2009, Darrell Thompson purportedly accepted delivery of 11 parcels, containing a total of 155 items of counterfeit apparel at his Long Prairie residence. He reportedly intended to transfer those goods to his son, Charles Thompson. Also on that date, Patricia Thompson allegedly accepted delivery of nine parcels, containing approximately 133 counterfeit NFL jerseys, at the home she shares with her husband, Charles Thompson. On that same date, Charles Thompson reportedly possessed approximately 3,000 items of counterfeit sportswear at his Long Prairie home.
The counterfeit apparel was allegedly sold by Charles Thompson to an array of customers, including co-defendants Bakken, Ingebretson, and Braun, intending to resell the merchandise to unsuspecting buyers. From September 2008 through November 2009, Bakken reportedly purchased counterfeit sportswear from Charles Thompson on a number of occasions and then resold it after substantial price markups. On Dec. 1, 2009, Ingebretson was found in possession of approximately 127 counterfeit apparel items at his store, Sportsminded, in Alexandria. Those items had been purchased from Charles Thompson. Between December 2008 and November 2009, Braun allegedly bought at least 100 items of counterfeit sportswear from Charles Thompson for resale at his store, Studio 52, in St. Cloud.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum potential penalty of ten years in federal prison. Any sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Paulsen, District of Minnesota.