An award of $405,258 in grant money was announced to the California Attorney General’s office and the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force to combat the manufacture, purchase, and sale of counterfeit and pirated products.
Intellectual Property (IP) theft refers to the violation of criminal laws that protect copyrights, patents, trademarks, other forms of intellectual property, and trade secrets in the United States and abroad. IP crimes can destroy jobs and suppress innovation in the United States.
Faulty products and improperly prepared counterfeit drugs can jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. In some cases, these activities are used to fund dangerous or even violent criminal enterprises and organized crime networks.
Today’s announcement is part of a broader national announcement by the Justice Department of more than $2.4 million in grants to 13 jurisdictions around the country to combat this problem.
“IP theft is not a victimless crime. It can devastate lives and businesses as well as undermine our nation’s financial stability, jeopardize the health of our citizens, and even threaten our national security,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “That’s why the Justice Department is fighting back with these new investments to prevent and combat IP theft by enabling some of our key state and local partners to build on their records of success.”
The California Attorney General’s Office will receive $200,000 to support its efforts to enhance state law enforcement’s response to intellectual property theft by: (1) coordinating investigations targeting intellectual property crimes occurring within California; (2) referring completed intellectual property investigations for local, state, or federal prosecution; and (3) developing and delivering three law enforcement/prosecutor training programs for addressing IP crime. The project will be run by the California Attorney General’s eCrime Unit (eCU).
The Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force (Task Force) was awarded $205,258 to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in enforcing IP laws. These resources will fund two detective positions at 50 percent, which will increase the Task Force’s ability to provide community outreach and law enforcement training on IP violations and to investigate IP crimes. The Task Force has already been part of the investigation into two large-scale multi-defendant cases that have resulted in 12 convictions so far. USA v. Caballero et al. 1:11-cr-299 and USA v. Munoz et al. 1:11-cr-016. Using warehouses and garages in Sacramento, San Jose, and Modesto, the defendants manufactured counterfeit media and sold them at flea markets in Galt, Modesto and elsewhere.
“Preventing and combating intellectual property crimes is one of our top priorities.” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “With the grants we announce today, we will be even better positioned to work with our federal, state, and local partners to more effectively fight IP crime.”
In the last three months, eight individuals have been charged with IP violations in the Central Valley. Last week, five individuals were charged in Fresno for a scheme to manufacture and distribute 100,000 counterfeit DVDs and CDs. The defendants allegedly sold counterfeit movie DVDs and CDs, including some movies that were only in theatrical release and not yet available on DVD. The retail value of the copyrighted works was more than $1.3 million. USA v. Hernandez et al. (1:12-cr-326). On July 12, 2012, three people were charged in a 23-count indictment for an Elk Grove-based business that trafficked in counterfeit DVDs. The defendants falsely advertised to have located a limited supply of scarce Disney DVDs that were otherwise unavailable for purchase. In reality, they were importing thousands of bootleg copies of the movies directly from factories in China and selling them as if they were legitimate DVDs. USA v. Johnson et al. (2:12-cr-250)
In the past three years, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded $10,108,800 in grants to 34 law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem of IP theft. The Justice Department is also working with the National White Collar Crime Center and the National Association of Attorneys General to provide training and technical assistance to law enforcement on the topic of IP crime investigation. In addition, the department has partnered with the National Crime Prevention Council to educate American consumers about the dangers of purchasing and using counterfeit goods. For more information on the NCPC’s efforts on this issue, please visit: www.ncpc.org/topics/intellectual-property-theft.