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February 9, 2023Jefferson City, MO, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

Missouri couple sentenced for selling counterfeit Disney movies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A federal judge sentenced a Columbia couple Feb. 8, following a joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation into a scheme to smuggle counterfeit Disney DVDs into the United States and sell them on eBay.

U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark sentenced Tabitha Nicole Rodgers, 43, and her husband, Clint Travis Rodgers, 49, in separate appearances. Tabitha Rodgers was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole. Clint Rodgers was sentenced to one year in federal prison without parole.

The court also ordered Tabitha Rodgers to pay $26,573 in restitution to the government for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits she was not entitled to receive. The court ordered Clint Rodgers to pay a $10,000 fine.

On Oct. 12, 2021, Tabitha Rodgers pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement for profit. Clint Rodgers pleaded guilty the same day to a misdemeanor count of criminal infringement of a copyright.

In July 2014, HSI received information from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center indicating that Clint Rodgers had received more than 443 shipments of counterfeit DVDs from companies in Hong Kong known to sell and export counterfeit goods. HSI agents identified two shipments that had been seized prior to delivery to the couple’s home in Columbia. One shipment contained 200 counterfeit “Beauty and the Beast” DVDs and another shipment contained 260 counterfeit “Aladdin” DVDs. On Feb. 4, 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized a parcel addressed to Clint Rodgers that contained 200 counterfeit Disney DVDs.

Undercover federal agents purchased several counterfeit Disney DVDs from the couple on eBay in February and March 2015. The pair represented that the DVDs were genuine and authentic Disney products, though they were aware the products were counterfeit. During the investigation, agents contacted two persons who assisted the couple in selling counterfeit DVDs on eBay. They told agents they were aware of numerous complaints from customers, including complaints that the DVDs didn’t work.

On Aug. 25, 2015, HSI agents executed a search warrant at the Rodgers’ home. Agents seized an assortment of counterfeit goods, including numerous counterfeit Disney DVDs. Tabitha Rodgers admitted that she conducted the business’s day-to-day operations. She corresponded via email with the counterfeit DVD supplier in Hong Kong and placed orders for the DVDs. She also packaged and sent the DVDs to customers and processed customer complaints when DVDs were inoperable. Clint Rodgers assisted by helping recruit third parties to use their eBay accounts to sell the DVDs.

According to court documents, most or all of the couple’s income was derived from this criminal activity. They had been notified by Beachbody and Otter Products to cease and desist from selling counterfeit products; eBay cancelled a number of the pair’s accounts for selling counterfeit merchandise, but they recruited others to sell the products.

Although they derived substantial income from selling counterfeit goods, Tabitha Rodgers sought and obtained SNAP benefits from the government to which she was not entitled. Her fraudulent conduct in obtaining benefits was considered by the court in determining an appropriate sentence and in ordering restitution.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lynn.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat counterfeit goods in your community, on Twitter @HSIKansasCity.