SEATTLE WOMAN SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR TRAFFICKING IN COUNTERFEIT EXERCISE EQUIPMENT
Defendant Imported Counterfeit Exercise Equipment and Sold it On-line as Authentic
GENEVIEVE RULLAN, 34, of Seattle, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 days in prison, 120 days of home confinement, 150 hours of community service, three years of supervised release and $64,500 in restitution for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods. RULLAN pleaded guilty in June 2010, following an undercover investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). RULLAN admitted she knowingly imported and sold counterfeit exercise equipment. In sentencing RULLAN to prison time, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez noted that “there were many, many false statements to customs and to customers . . . there were many overt acts to keep this scheme going.”
According to records filed in the case, in November 2009, an HSI agent working undercover communicated with RULLAN over the internet about the authenticity of the “Ab Circle Pro” exercisers she was selling on the auction site eBay. RULLAN responded that the item was not a fake, and said it was just lower priced because that was the going rate on eBay. In December 2009, HSI agents made a court authorized search of RULLAN’s home and seized 210 counterfeit “Ab Circle Pro” units. Agents also seized evidence of a double invoicing scheme, as well as other counterfeit exercise equipment. The investigation revealed that in 2008 and 2009, RULLAN had sold more than 1,000 counterfeit items on eBay.
RULLAN admitted to agents and in her plea agreement that she knew the items were counterfeit, but nevertheless assured both eBay and her customers that they were not. RULLAN provided a letter to eBay falsely claiming that she was an authorized distributor of the “Ab Circle Pro” for Fitness Brands Inc. When customers complained about the low quality of the item they purchased, RULLAN continued to claim they were the genuine item. Those claims hurt the legitimate company.
“When a counterfeiter like Ms. Rullan sells an illegitimate product, trademark holders suffer direct and immediate financial harm, in the form of lost purchases of their legitimate product... Trademark holders also suffer more indirect harm, such as the damage to their reputation when the counterfeit products turn out to be low-quality and faulty, as were the products sold by Ms. Rullan....” Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs wrote in his sentencing memo.
“This case serves as a reminder that the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime,” said Leigh Winchell, HSI special agent in charge in Seattle. “This type of illegal behavior robs legitimate businesses of millions of dollars in lost revenue and provides an unwitting public with sub-par merchandise. HSI will continue to investigate these crimes in an effort to deter this activity in the United States and around the world.”
In fiscal year 2009, HSI’s investigations resulted in the seizure of more than $62 million in pirated and counterfeit goods. The vast majority of the counterfeit goods seized come from China.
Today’s sentencing is part of a larger department-wide effort led by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to http://www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce/.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.