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Intellectual Property Rights

Bakersfield business owner pleads guilty to trafficking in counterfeit goods

FRESNO, Calif. — A Bakersfield merchant pleaded guilty Tuesday to trafficking in counterfeit goods, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Eric Huggins, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa.

According to court documents, the investigation began after HSI special agents received a tip that Huggins was selling counterfeit goods from a business called "Girlfriends by Design" in Bakersfield. Investigators executed search warrants at two business locations, as well as Huggins' residence and seized approximately $140,000 in counterfeit purses, apparel items, emblems and labels related to brands including Chanel, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Reebok and Lacoste.

Investigators also observed Huggins selling suspected counterfeit merchandise from his vehicle at various locations in Bakersfield after the initial search warrants were executed. In a plea agreement, Huggins admitted that from February 2009 through January 2011, he intentionally trafficked in clothing, handbags, sunglasses, and other merchandise that contained counterfeit trademarks. As part of his plea agreement, Huggins has agreed to forfeit hundreds of counterfeit items.

Huggins will be sentenced Sept. 3 by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. Huggins faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.