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2 arrested in ICE probe targeting major LA-area Chinese video store
Tens of thousands of movie DVDs bearing counterfeit Dolby Digital trademark seized
LOS ANGELES - The owner and manager of a popular Monterey Park, Calif., video store were arrested Monday morning by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on allegations they illegally imported and sold tens of thousands of Chinese movie DVDs bearing a counterfeit Dolby Digital trademark.
Wei Sheng "Jackie" Chen, 46, of Arcadia, Calif., owner of Tema Media, Inc., and the store's manager, Dong Qun Lin, 40, of Alhambra, Calif., are charged in a federal criminal complaint with trafficking in counterfeit goods. They are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court here Monday afternoon. The charges carry a maximum possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
Monday's arrests are the latest developments in an ongoing ICE HSI investigation that began in September 2010 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers intercepted an air freight shipment containing more than 1,700 DVDs from Hong Kong addressed to Tema Media. CBP import specialists determined the Dolby trademark stamps on those movie DVDs were counterfeit.
"This seizure is a prime example of the hard work CBP officers and import specialists perform daily in combating the illegitimate trade in counterfeit goods at Los Angeles International Airport," said CBP Acting Director of Los Angeles Field Operations Carlos Martel. "CBP remains committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to protect American consumers against products that hurt American businesses."
In January, HSI agents executed a federal search warrant at Tema Media, located at 151 E. Garvey Ave., where they seized nearly 25,000 Chinese DVDs bearing counterfeit Dolby Digital trademarks. Had the seized DVDs been genuine they would have had an estimated retail value of more than $1 million. Subsequent investigation revealed that Tema Media had imported approximately 85 shipments of Chinese DVDs in a five-month period from March through October 2010.
"Our investigation indicates this retailer supplied clients not only in California, but also in Nevada," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "American consumers need to remember, the sale of counterfeit products like this is not a victimless crime. Counterfeiters don't invest in product development; they don't put a premium on product quality or safety; all they do is get rich at America's expense."
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE HSI plays a leading role in targeting individuals and criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. In fiscal year 2010, ICE and CBP intellectual property rights enforcement efforts led to nearly 20,000 seizures, a 34 percent increase compared to the previous year. The total value of those goods, based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price had the goods been genuine, $1.4 billion. Perhaps even more troubling, increasingly the commodities seized in intellectual property rights cases are products that pose potential risks to public safety and security, including critical technology components and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center includes partners from CBP; FBI; Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Postal Inspection Service; Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration; Patent and Trademark Office; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; Army Criminal Investigative Command, Major Procurement Fraud Unit; General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General; Consumer Product Safety Commission; Defense Logistics Agency, Investigations Division; Department of State, Office of International Intellectual Property Enforcement; INTERPOL; Government of Mexico, Tax Administration Service; and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
To report IP theft, click here.