Tampa Woman Sentenced to Two Years for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore yesterday sentenced Jin Zheng (39, Tampa) to two years in federal prison for trafficking in counterfeit goods. Zheng pleaded guilty to the offense on November 10, 2011.
According to court documents, on or about March 22, 2011, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) executed a federal search warrant at the Asia Gift Shop, located at 1441 E. Fletcher Avenue, Suite # 127, Tampa, in the Middle District of Florida. Zheng is co-owner and operator of the Asia Gift Shop. The federal search warrant was predicated on, among other things, prior purchases of counterfeit goods from the Asia Gift Shop by an undercover Homeland Security Investigations special agent. Zheng exclusively sold counterfeit merchandise at her store - including clothing, jewelry, handbags, and perfume. The merchandise featured fake designer labels from Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Coach, Dior, Hermes, John Paul Gaultier, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Vera Wang, and Versace, among others. Zheng charged no sales tax and offered discounts for purchases made with cash.
“I urge buyers to beware. Counterfeiting is not a harmless crime,” said Susan McCormick, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in Tampa, Florida. “Counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses more than $200 billion each year and accounts for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs.”
During the search, Homeland Security Investigations seized more than 120 boxes of counterfeit merchandise. In total, agents seized approximately 6075 items, including more than 1,000 lose counterfeit designer labels, to be affixed to generic merchandise. The items seized bore labels from 44 trademark holders, each of which was intended to cause confusion, cause mistake, or deceive purchasers. The value of the items, as priced and sold by Zheng from the Asia Gift Shop, was approximately $103,428.
During the execution of the search warrant, Zheng admitted to selling counterfeit items at the Asia Gift Shop and that she attached counterfeit designer labels to generic handbags, which she bought in New York.
After pleading guilty to the original offense, Zheng and her husband were observed selling additional counterfeit items out of another unit at the same shopping center as the Asia Gift Shop. On February 1, 2012, agents seized an additional 5,512 counterfeit items from her and her husband, who is now facing deportation proceedings. In total, the more than 11,000 counterfeit items taken from Zheng resulted in a loss of $172,318.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.