Latvian National Sentenced to More Than 4 Years in Federal Prison, Ordered to Pay Over $4.5M in Restitution after Defrauding Millions from Patent and Trademark Mail Fraud Scheme
Columbia, South Carolina --- Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that Viktors Suhorukovs, 37, a citizen of Latvia, was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison and ordered to pay over $4.5 million in restitution, after pleading guilty to mail fraud in a multi-million-dollar scheme, carried out over a nearly three-year period, that defrauded holders of United States trademark registrations.
“Our office will always seek out and utilize all means available to bring justice towards those who defraud United States citizens and businesses in efforts to steal millions of dollars,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “Our office also appreciates the collaborative effort with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Greenville Police Department to ensure justice was served.”
“On behalf of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we are grateful for the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina, Homeland Security, and the Greenville Police Department in bringing Mr. Suhorukovs to justice," said David S. Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks. "Trademark filing scams are a growing international problem, with foreign entities increasingly targeting U.S. citizens with misleading solicitations. We are committed to the rigorous protection of all users of our world-class trademark register and are pleased to work with law enforcement to achieve a result like the one in this case.”
Evidence presented to the court showed that Suhorukovs established and operated Patent and Trademark Office, LLC, a limited liability company registered in the District of Columbia, and Patent and Trademark Bureau, LLC, a limited liability company registered in New York. These names closely resemble the official name of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which helped conceal the true source of trademark registration renewal notices Suhorukovs’ companies were mailing to registrants.
Suhorukovs’ renewal notices misrepresented the trademark registration’s expiration date. The renewal notices also contained a QR Code which linked the trademark holder directly to the official government USPTO website. The notices directed the victim to sign and return the notice. Once the victim signed and returned the renewal notice, Suhorukovs sent the victim an invoice for the renewal service and charged inflated prices for the renewal of the trademark. Victims would then, unknowingly, send renewal fees to Suhorukovs’ businesses, believing they were dealing with the USPTO.
In the notices and invoices, Suhorukovs represented he would renew the trademark registration, when in fact, he did not or could not renew the registration at the time he represented to the victims that he would because, under applicable law, those trademarks were not yet eligible for renewal. In addition, under the USPTO’s rules, Suhorukovs could not lawfully file renewal documents on behalf of registrants because he was not a licensed U.S. attorney.
Over 2,900 victims of the scheme have been identified.
United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins, Jr. sentenced Suhorukovs to 52 months in federal prison and 24 months of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. Suhorukovs was also ordered to pay $4,521,593.27 in restitution.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Greenville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Marosek prosecuted the case.
Information on how the USPTO protects owners of United States trademark registrations from theft and scams can be viewed at: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/protect/scam-awareness.