LOS ANGELES — A Lakewood man is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Monday morning following his arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for importing more than 1,000 counterfeit Microsoft Office CD-ROMs and selling them to unsuspecting customers over the Internet.
Collier Bennett Harper, 30, was taken into custody late Friday. He is charged in a four-count federal indictment following the seizure of two shipments of Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2007 software CD-ROMs. Specifically, the indictment charges Harper with two counts of trafficking counterfeit goods and two counts of smuggling. If convicted of all charges, Harper faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
"With the advent of the Internet, counterfeiting now threatens nearly every consumer in the nation and it also harms the valuable intellectual property of our manufacturers," said United States Attorney Andre Birotté Jr, whose office is prosecuting the case. "That is why we are working with our partners at HSI to crack down on the illegal sales and distribution of counterfeit products like the software packages seized in this case."
HSI's investigation revealed that, as part of the alleged scheme, Harper would contact reputable dealers on eBay and hire them to sell the counterfeit software. According to investigators, the defendant allegedly instructed the sellers how to list the software, describing the product as "new" and authentic. The sellers would provide Harper with the payment and the customers' addresses, and the defendant would ship the counterfeit software to the unsuspecting buyers. Based on evidence gathered during the probe, investigators believe nearly 1,000 counterfeit software packages were sold.
"The sale of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "These activities undermine our economy, rob Americans of jobs, stifle American innovation and promote crime. Intellectual property theft amounts to economic sabotage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively pursue product counterfeiters and those who sell counterfeit products."
Investigators estimate, based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price, the seized software would have retailed for approximately $150,000 had it been genuine.