MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Four illegal aliens were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents yesterday for trafficking more than $5 million in counterfeit items.
Kemo Krubally, 39, a native of Gambia, West Africa, who operates wholesale and retail merchandise outlets under the name of ATL FASHIONS, was arrested, along with three other men, as a result of an extensive investigation by ICE agents in Gulfport, Mississippi and Montgomery, Ala.
The counterfeit goods were seized by ICE special agents and the Montgomery County, Ala., Sheriff's Department, following the execution of five federal search warrants at locations linked to Krubally. The items seized included counterfeit Nike shoes and counterfeit Prada and Coach handbags.
"The creation, smuggling and sale of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime," said Michael A. Holt, special-agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations, New Orleans. "These products are produced illegally, harming the trademark holders, smuggled into the country and distributed by organized crime groups and sold to the detriment of local businesses and communities who derive no financial gain from the illegal sales. ICE is committed to an aggressive approach toward enforcing the nation's intellectual property rights laws."
In recent years, counterfeiting, piracy, and other intellectual property rights (IPR) violations have grown in magnitude and complexity, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue and often posing health and safety risks to U.S. consumers. The United States Trade Representative has estimated that U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion to counterfeiting annually.
The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of enabling technology allowing for simple, low-cost duplication of copyrighted products, as well as by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit. In many cases, international organized crime groups bankroll their criminal activities, including illegal drug trafficking, the sale of illegal weapons and even the possible funding of terrorist attacks by using the enormous profits realized from the sale of counterfeit goods.
ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.
In fiscal year 2007, ICE partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize nearly $200 million in counterfeit or pirated merchandise nationwide. During that same period, ICE and CBP made more than 13,600 IPR seizures, resulting in 241 arrests, 149 indictments and 134 criminal convictions.
ICE manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations. ICE agents and CBP personnel throughout the country rely upon the IPR Coordination Center for guidance in their inspections and investigations.
Holt thanked the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department for their participation in the investigation.
United States Attorney Leura Canary is handling the prosecution of the case for the Middle District of Alabama. The ICE investigation into the case is ongoing.