On March 18, 2021, a U.S. State Department employee and his spouse will be sentenced by a U.S. District Court judge for conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods.
The couple pled guilty to trafficking counterfeit goods from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.
The State Department employee and his spouse were not high-volume counterfeiters (as far as I can tell from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release and the criminal complaint.) Still, this case does highlight the diverse backgrounds of persons drawn to the trafficking of counterfeit goods.
And, unique to this case, even after being detected and ostensibly given a chance to avoid prosecution, the embassy employee (and his spouse) could not resist returning to it–even at the risk of losing one’s career.
- Embassy Employee (EE) had a security clearance
- EE used a State Department computer to create accounts on several e-commerce platforms
- EE gave his wife login credentials to his State Department computer to operate the counterfeit accounts
- December 2017 – EE and wife posted listings of counterfeit goods
- After each sale, a shipping/co-conspirator in the U.S. mailed the counterfeit item(s) to the purchaser (one purchaser was likely the infringed brand gathering evidence)
- April 2018 — the shipping/co-conspirator received a cease and desist letter from the infringed brand (Vera Bradley) and alerted the EE by email with the the brand’s partial quote:
“…requesting that you immediately cease and desist from offering for sale any Vera Bradley counterfeit products and destroy any violating products.”
To which the embassy employee replied: “OK, I thought this would happen. Stop all shipments.”
The EE then sent the following email to his wife, “Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you.”
So, it appears the Embassy Employee and his wife were being given the opportunity to stop what they were doing by the brand, change their counterfeiting ways, and get on with their lives. But, they did not heed the call.
After the couple laid low for seventeen (17) months, in September 2019, they created a number of additional e-commerce accounts under various aliases and resumed the counterfeit sale of Vera Bradley products.
TRUTH CONTINUES TO BE STRANGER THAN FICTION
You cannot make this stuff up.
Here is a U.S. embassy employee that is conspiring with his wife to sell counterfeits through his State Department computer. And, even after getting caught, husband and wife resume selling counterfeits of the same brand. Apparently, he did not recognize how easy it would be for the brand to determine the counterfeits were coming from a U.S. government computer network.
U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations and the U.S Postal Inspection Service.
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