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Intellectual Property Rights

Texas man sentenced for selling counterfeit "Cisco" routers

HOUSTON - A local man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for selling counterfeit Cisco products following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Robert Edman, 30, of Richmond, Texas, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, according to an announcement made Tuesday by U. S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. Edman was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release upon his release from prison.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore held Edman responsible for a loss amount of $1,461,558 and stated that Edman's conduct caused "immeasurable harm to Cisco's brand name" and also harmed consumers who thought they were obtaining a genuine product. Edman pleaded guilty in September 2009 and will surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at a future date.

Cisco Systems is an American company that manufactures and sells computer hardware with an emphasis on hardware such as network cards, allowing computers to network with other computers. Edman came to the attention of federal law enforcement in February 2006 when a customs officer at the Federal Express facility in Anchorage inspected a shipment from China addressed to Edman in Richmond. The shipment contained 1,800 empty Cisco boxes and Cisco labels. In shipping counterfeit computer goods, it is a known practice to send the more valuable parts separately from the counterfeit packaging. If the counterfeit packaging is discovered, as in this case, only that is seized and not the separately shipped, and more valuable, computer parts.

ICE agents delivered a package of the empty Cisco boxes and labels to Edman on Feb. 23, 2006, and then executed a search warrant. Edman told agents he routinely purchased Cisco products from an individual in China who goes by the name "Tony." Tony is a known trafficker in counterfeit Cisco parts. Bank records subsequently obtained during this investigation revealed Edman had wired Tony approximately $437,000.

The investigation revealed Edman operated a business under the name Syren Technology. He sold parts purported to be genuine Cisco networking products to various customers, either directly or through drop-shipping (a process in which an end user purchases products through a middleman, who in turn, filled the orders by purchasing the products from Syren). Syren customers included the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, FBI, BOP, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Energy, as well as defense contractors, universities, school districts and financial institutions.

Edman pleaded guilty to one count involving an August 2005 drop-shipment of network cards to BOP. After the launch of the criminal investigation, the BOP was able to retrieve some of these network cards and Cisco engineers confirmed the cards were counterfeit.

ICE was assisted in the investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Cisco. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa, Southern District of Texas.