Two Mexican nationals made their initial appearance in federal court this week on charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents executed a search warrant at a rural Fresno (California)-area home, seizing more than 70,000 pirated copies of music and movies.
Alberto Campos-Limon, 24, and Jose Jeronimo-Jimenez, 32, both of Fresno, were taken into custody by Fresno HSI agents. They are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy; copyright infringement; and trafficking in counterfeit labels. The illegal activities allegedly occurred between Feb. 28 and April 24. Each offense carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.
A third suspect, Arnoldo Chavez-Mendoza, 50, a Mexican national who currently resides in Tulare, was arrested on state charges of copyright infringement after agents conducting the enforcement action observed him purchasing several hundred audio CDs from the two defendants.
The suspects were taken into custody at a rural Fresno-area residence where investigators discovered the bulk of the counterfeit music and movie disks. During a search of the home, investigators also found a variety of equipment commonly used to mass produce DVDs and CDs.
“Commercial piracy and product counterfeiting undermine the U.S. economy, rob Americans of jobs, stifle American innovation and promote other types of crime,” said Clark Settles, special agent in charge who oversees HSI Fresno. “Intellectual property theft amounts to economic sabotage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively pursue product counterfeiters and those who sell counterfeit products.”
This enforcement action is the culmination of a probe that began in February. According to the criminal complaint in the case, during the ensuing investigation agents made multiple undercover purchases of counterfeit DVDS, including films such as “Safe House,” “In Time,” “Haywire” and “Red Tails.” Among the titles seized Tuesday at the residence were numerous first run movies, including “Hunger Games” and “American Reunion.” All told, agents have seized more than 70,000 counterfeit DVDs and CDs in connection with the investigation. Authorities estimate the retail value of those disks at more than $900,000.
HSI received substantial assistance with the investigation from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
“The United States government has made intellectual property protection a priority,” said Dallas international trade and intellectual property attorney Jim Chester. “It seems as if every week we see a new seizure of counterfeiting imports. These efforts are helpful and worthwhile, but U.S. officials and law enforcement can only do so much. Seizure of trademark and copyright infringing imports will hardly make a dent in the global piracy of intellecual property rights.”