U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
June 20, 2014
Rhode Island Resident Sentenced to 50 Months in Federal Prison for
Trafficking Counterfeit Sports Jerseys, Clothing, Health and Beauty Products
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Norman Cipriano, 41, of Warwick, R.I., was sentenced on Thursday to 50 months in federal prison for trafficking more 14,500 counterfeit sports jerseys, clothing accessories, and health and beauty products valued at more than $1 million dollars, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha, Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Warwick Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith also ordered Cipriano to serve 3 years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. An amount of restitution to be paid by the defendant to various companies impacted in this matter will be determined at a later date. Cipriano pleaded guilty on August 5, 2013, to trafficking in counterfeit goods and services.
“The world-wide theft of intellectual property and the sale of counterfeit goods is, unfortunately, a burgeoning and increasingly dangerous crime. The distribution of counterfeit medications, both over-the-counter, as in this case, and prescription narcotics, as in other cases we have seen, present an obvious health and safety threat. Trafficking in other counterfeit goods, such as apparel and other consumer products, may seem more innocuous, but nevertheless demands the same aggressive attention from law enforcement. Such criminal misconduct causes irreparable economic harm to the companies that make the real article, including such companies’ ability to maintain and create jobs for every-day Americans,” said United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
United States Attorney Neronha added, “I am grateful for the vigilance of the Customs and Border Protection agents in Alaska who first recognized the defendant’s attempt to bring counterfeit and illegitimate items to our shores. HSI agents in Rhode Island, working with Warwick Police Detectives and Officers and other federal, state and local law enforcement officials, took it from there, building a strong case that ultimately led to today’s entirely appropriate sentence.”
“The notion that counterfeit products are a victimless crime is absurd. Criminals who sell counterfeit goods are economic leeches that siphon trade from legitimate businesses that pay taxes, create jobs and support our local economy," said Eric Caron, Resident Agent in Charge of HSI Providence.
"Buying them may appear at first to be a bargain, but when we take into account the common nexus to organized crime or worse, the laborers who may be forced to work in substandard conditions, and the locally owned stores that are forced to close their doors, we see that this ‘victimless crime’ harms all of us in the long run.”
According to information presented to the court, HSI agents in Rhode Island were notified that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Anchorage, Alaska, conducted a routine border search of a package arriving from the People’s Republic of China addressed to Cipriano and his Warwick residence. The shipment was manifested as “Man Coats.” An examination of the contents revealed sports jerseys affixed with NFL Football and Nike trademarked logos. CBP agents suspected that the display of trademarks was unauthorized.
CBP agents shipped the package to HSI agents in Rhode Island who conducted a controlled delivery of the merchandise to Cipriano’s residence on August 23, 2012, with the assistance of the HSI Boston Gangs/Commercial Fraud Unit and Warwick Police.
Simultaneously, working in conjunction with HSI agents from Boston who had already begun an investigation into Cipriano’s alleged importation and sale of counterfeit merchandise at a flea market in Raynham, Mass., continued the investigation which included multiple visits and surveillance of Cipriano’s activities at the flea market and at his home.
On September 19, 2012, HSI agents from Rhode Island and Boston, assisted by agents and officers from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Warwick Police Department, executed a court authorized search of Cipriano’s home and two vehicles used to transport the counterfeit goods. The agents seized nearly 5,000 counterfeit sports jerseys, wearing apparel and accessories, and health and beauty aids - including a significant quantity of counterfeit over-the-counter medications. In total, agents seized approximately 14,700 counterfeit items conservatively valued at more than $1.02 million dollars and nearly $56,000 in cash, money orders and a bank check. The following day the government seized a bank account containing more than $76,000 which belonged to Cipriano.
Queries of CBP data bases disclosed that between September 2009 and June 2012 CBP agents made numerous seizures of counterfeit goods imported into the United States earmarked for shipment to Cipriano’s Rhode Island residence. After each seizure, seizure notices were sent notifying Cipriano of the seizure and provided the opportunity to contest the seizure. None were contested.
In October 2012, as a result of his arrest by federal agents for this crime, Cipriano was found to be a probation violator on a 2005 conviction in Rhode Island state court for conspiracy and receiving stolen property. Cipriano served 22 months in state prison on the violation while this matter was pending in federal court.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan.
To assist the media and the public, a glossary of federal judicial terms and procedures is available at http://www.justice.gov/usao/justice101/