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Intellectual Property Rights

South Texas man sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in counterfeit goods

Store owner notorious for selling "Narco T-shirts"

LAREDO, Texas – A local business man was sentenced Friday to 13 months in federal prison for trafficking in counterfeit merchandise, following an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Rolando Montalvo, 50, from Laredo, Texas, was sentenced to a year and a month in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge, George P. Kazen. Judge Kazen also ordered Montalvo to serve three years of supervised probation after he completes his prison sentence. Montalvo pleaded guilty to selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise Dec. 29, 2011.

According to court documents, the case initiated May 2011 when Montalvo, the owner of "La Moda" store, sold a few handbags to an HSI undercover special agent. The handbags were labeled as Louis Vuitton and Burberry. Special agents contacted the trademark representatives who confirmed the handbags were counterfeit. On two separate occasions, Montalvo received shipments of counterfeit goods from overseas. On July 20, 2011, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at La Moda store located in downtown Laredo. They seized nearly 4,000 pieces of merchandise with a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of almost $1 million. Among the items seized were Ralph Lauren polo shirts known as "Narco T-shirts," and handbags labeled as Fendi, Burberry, Channel, Coach, Prada and Louis Vuitton, to name a few.

"Trademark holders lose billions of dollars annually from merchandise counterfeiters like Montalvo who traffic in inferior fake goods for their own profit," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "HSI uses our unique customs law enforcement authorities to protect U.S. trademarks – and their associated American jobs, income and tax revenue."

Anyone with information about individuals committing intellectual property offenses can report those crimes to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center by visiting http://www.iprcenter.gov/referral or by calling 1-866-IPR-2060.

As the largest investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, and dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.