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October 6, 2015Jacksonville, FL, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

Florida resident sentenced for distribution of counterfeit Apple, Otter goods

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida man was sentenced to 18 months in prison Oct. 1 followed by one year of supervised release for trafficking in counterfeit goods. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). 

Michael Erik Sanders, 40, of Jacksonville, was also ordered to pay Apple Corporation $73,950 and Otter Products (maker of Otterbox Phone Cases) $20,205.

"Intellectual property theft poses a very real public safety threat, by generating proceeds for organized crime and introducing substandard, often dangerous goods like plug in phone chargers and phone batteries into the commerce chain,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.  “The only individuals who benefit from schemes like this are the counterfeiters themselves, and they are benefiting at America's expense."

HSI Jacksonville discovered a shipment from China containing counterfeit iPhone back plates and Otter Box cases. Upon further investigation it was determined that Sanders was selling counterfeit cell phone parts and accessories using e-commerce. A search warrant was executed at Sanders’ home, and several thousand counterfeit items from various trademark holders were seized from his residence. Sanders also bought remanufactured phones and paired them with counterfeit batteries and chargers.  He would then place all the items together in a new counterfeit trademarked box and sell the phones in e-commerce. Sanders admitted that he took in over $100,000 in sales. The investigation revealed that the counterfeit products acquired by Sanders would have had a value of over one million dollars had they been authentic. 

Founded in 2000, ICE’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.