Lakeland Counterfeit Investigation Extends To The People's Republic Of China
Tampa, Florida - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announced today that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations has made another seizure of counterfeit DVDs in Lakeland. The seizure is part of a global counterfeit motion picture DVD investigation that began in Lakeland, and extended to the People’s Republic of China. Today’s seizures netted approximately 10,000 counterfeit DVDs, approximately $30,000 in cash, and about $144,000 from two bank accounts. The amounts from two additional seized bank accounts have yet to be determined. Thus far, seven people have been charged federally for their roles in the case. Each of the seven previously pleaded guilty. Six of them have already been sentenced.
On August 10, 2012, Jian Huang (People's Republic of China, 37) pleaded guilty to conspiracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods. He was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison on November 2, 2012. The court also ordered Huang to pay restitution to the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) in the amount of $1,214,333.12. The MPAA is a trade association that represents certain motion picture, home video and television industry companies, including Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.; Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Paramount Pictures Corp.; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; and Universal Studios.
According to court documents, in 2010 or earlier, Huang and his Chinese-based company ("TM Wholesale") began making bulk sales of counterfeit motion picture DVDs, along with counterfeit packaging, to buyers in the United States and throughout the world. Huang’s counterfeit conspiracy included multiple bulk purchasers in the Lakeland area. The bulk purchasers would buy the counterfeit DVDs from Huang at approximately $1.28 per unit. The purchasers would then resell them online, via Amazon and E-Bay, as genuine DVDs. Unsuspecting customers were then charged a retail price of approximately $12 per DVD.
On July 27, 2011, and April 24, 2012, law enforcement agents seized a total of approximately 113,618 counterfeit DVDs from three bulk purchasers in Polk County. The DVDs were all supplied by Huang. Agents also gathered evidence revealing that, between January 8, 2009, and May 2012, payments of more than $2.5 million were made to Huang’s PayPal account. The payments came from approximately 270 different bulk purchasers with addresses located primarily in the United States.
“Intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime. When individuals pirate trademarked movies, they cost American businesses billions of dollars in revenue, which in turn, leads to the loss of American jobs,” said Shane Folden, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa.
“The Lakeland Police Department’s Special Investigations Section committed a Cross Designee Detective, Task Force Officer, to the Department of Homeland Security for this investigation for the past 18 months,” said Assistant Chief Mike Link. “During this extensive investigation, Lakeland detectives partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to provide a myriad of covert investigative support and assistance to help eradicate this global criminal enterprise. As a result, a valued partnership has been established between the Department of Homeland Security and the Lakeland Police Department that will pay huge dividends to both agencies and the community in the future.”
“Today’s announcement is a victory for both American consumers and the millions of men and women who work in the creative industries,” said Mike Robinson, Executive Vice President for Content Protection at the Motion Picture Association of America. “We applaud U.S. law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for successfully bringing to justice these foreign criminals who were illegally profiting off the ingenuity and creativity of Americans workers. This effort was a vital step toward protecting both the livelihoods of millions of hardworking Americans, and a thriving legitimate market for the movies and TV shows that audiences love.”
Six of Huang’s co-conspirators, including Alex Lee Lim (Lakeland, 37), Robert Edmond Mattie (Winter Haven, 27), James William Ray (Bartow, 35), Donald Kenneth Brown, Jr. (Lakeland, 38), Martin William Grenfell (Lakeland, 49), and Christopher Alexander T. Clark (Lakeland, 47), previously pleaded guilty to trafficking in counterfeit labels. On November 15, 2012, Lim was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison, and was ordered to pay restitution to the MPAA in the amount of $280,752.67. On November 30, 2012, Ray was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, and was ordered to pay $261,541.28 in restitution to the MPAA. Ray was also ordered to forfeit $100,005 in cash seized at the time of his arrest. On December 6, 2012, Mattie was sentenced to probation for a term of 5 years, with the first 12 months to be served on home detention. On February 22, 2013, Grenfell was sentenced to 3 years’ probation and Brown was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the MPAA. Clark pleaded guilty on February 8, 2013, and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, 2013. He faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison. As part of his plea agreement, Clark has agreed to forfeit $260,470.55 in counterfeit proceeds.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Lakeland Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark E. Bini.