SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A southwestern Missouri man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to multiple charges related to a scheme to sell thousands of counterfeit DVDs via the Internet.
This guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Matthew Cerullo, 42, of Springfield, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty to a four-count agreement that charges him with mail fraud, trafficking in counterfeit labels, trafficking in counterfeit goods, and making false statements to federal agents.
Based on records obtained from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), UPS Inc., DHL, EBay and Amazon.com, HSI special agents determined that Cerullo purchased and received more than 22,000 counterfeit DVDs from a distributor in Hong Kong between Feb. 13 and Sept. 10.
According to court documents, this HSI investigation began when a shipment of counterfeit DVDs from Hong Kong was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. These counterfeit DVDs were being shipped to a UPS store located in Springfield under the name of a business owned by Cerullo.
HSI special agents interviewed Cerullo at his residence regarding the shipments in May. Cerullo told the special agents that he had not received a seizure notice from CBP. Cerullo also told agents that he orders toys and jewelry from China to resell on EBay or to local venders, but does not buy DVDs. Cerullo claimed that he owns only one business, C3 Wholesale, LLC.
During the course of the investigation, however, HSI special agents learned that Cerullo’s statement contained false and fraudulent information that was designed to mislead them and their investigation. HSI special agents determined that Cerullo had in fact received four prior seizure notices from CBP. These notices were discovered in his desk during the execution of a search warrant at his residence. Agents also learned that Cerullo owned, operated and sold counterfeit DVDs through four different businesses: C3 Wholesale LLC, EJC Supply LLC, Midwest Wholesale and Capital Sierra LLC, and EJC Supply Company.
On Sept. 3, HSI special agents observed Cerullo mail a large quantity of packages at a local post office. USPIS inspected these packages and discovered that Cerullo had mailed 165 packages of counterfeit DVDs to various individuals around the country. Inspectors also noted that the return address on each package was fictitious.
The next day, HSI special agents executed a search warrant on Cerullo’s residence and a storage locker that Cerullo rented. They discovered more than 22,000 counterfeit DVDs at those locations.
Under federal statutes, Cerullo is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes its presentence investigation.