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Intellectual Property Rights

New Jersey woman sentenced for selling counterfeit cosmetics

PHILADELPHIA – A New Jersey woman was sentenced in federal court Tuesday on charges of trafficking in counterfeit M·A·C cosmetics and accessory items. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Lynn Lavigne, 61, of Vineland, N.J., was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home confinement and a $44,215.50 fine. She pleaded guilty to the charge Dec. 13, 2011.

The investigation began in August 2010 after Solebury Township (Pa.) Police received a complaint about the cosmetics that Lavigne was selling at a local flea market. The complainant had purchased some M·A·C brand eyeliner and suffered a rash on her left eyelid within minutes of using the product. She suspected the eyeliner may have been counterfeit based on its substantially reduced purchase price of $7, compared to its usual retail store price of $17.50.

HSI Philadelphia began to investigate Lavigne. During the investigation, HSI special agents made undercover purchases of M·A·C brand products from her.

The investigation revealed that Lavigne was receiving M·A·C brand cosmetics from a supplier in China. On at least five different occasions between 2009 and 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized shipments of counterfeit M·A·C cosmetics addressed to her Vineland, N.J., address.

"HSI is committed to bringing intellectual property theft violators to justice and ensuring the legitimate copyright holders are protected from individuals who are only motivated by greed," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "This case clearly demonstrates that counterfeit products can be harmful to users, jeopardize public safety and cause immeasurable harm to American companies."

As a result of those seizures, Lavigne received notices from CBP putting her on notice that the merchandise was counterfeit and subject to forfeiture. Despite those notices, Lavigne continued to order and sell counterfeit M·A·C brand cosmetics.

HSI special agents conducted an enforcement operation at the flea market in June 2011, which resulted in the seizure of 1,643 items worth $38,944. She also surrendered approximately 233 counterfeit M·A·C brand items worth nearly $5,271.

Lavigne admitted that despite receiving notices from CBP regarding the seized counterfeit products, she elected to continue buying and selling counterfeit cosmetics from her supplier in China until the subsequent operation and seizure by HSI special agents at her flea market stand.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI takes a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.

Operations such as the one conducted at this local flea market are coordinated through the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters. To report IP theft or to learn more about the HSI-led IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.