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April 17, 2015Houston, TX, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

Houston woman sentenced to a year in prison for selling counterfeit batteries

HOUSTON — A local woman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for her part in a conspiracy to sell counterfeit Samsung batteries.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, along with Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.

Graciella Balderrama-Acevedo, 53, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in federal prison and $90,000 in restitution to Samsung. Balderrama is a Mexican citizen and is expected to face deportation proceedings following her release from prison.

The court heard from a Samsung representative who explained that Samsung takes pride in producing quality products. He noted that Samsung is extremely concerned anytime counterfeit products, in violation of its trademark, are introduced into the United States. Of particular concern is when these counterfeit products pose a public safety risk like counterfeit lithium-ion batteries.

Balderrama engaged in a conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. She received the lithium-ion batteries from an individual in China who sold them in bulk to people in the U.S., who then sold the counterfeit products to individual Ebay purchasers.

On Oct. 30, 2014, a search warrant was executed at Balderrama’s home. At that time, authorities found the packaging, additional batteries and text communications from Balderrama demonstrating her involvement in this conspiracy. In some of those messages with her contact in China, she admits knowing the batteries are counterfeit but agrees to continue working.

Balderrama admitted to authorities she knew the batteries were not actual Samsung batteries, but she continued to package and sell them as authentic.

Counterfeit lithium-ion batteries are a public safety concern because they do not follow safety regulations, and they have been found to combust and harm individuals. This is especially a growing problem in China where the batteries are made.

Those charged in relation to this case were identified through an investigation conducted by HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Celia Moyer and Richard Bennett, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.