US Attorney Press Release: OCEAN CITY SHOP OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO SELLING COUNTERFEIT MERCHANDISE

Baltimore, Maryland – Liang Lin, age 34, a resident of Delaware, who owned and operated two shops on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to trafficking in counterfeit goods.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Colonel Marcus L. Brown, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Acting Chief Kevin Kirstein of the Ocean City Police Department.

“Entrepreneurs are free to sell cheap clothing, shoes, handbags, perfume and other consumer items,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “but they cannot use someone else’s trademark.”

“Counterfeit goods traffickers like Lin are looking to gain profit but in reality are committing a crime that results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products,” said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Baltimore. “Consumers now pay more for legitimate products to make up for the money being lost to counterfeits.  HSI enforcement operations into Intellectual property theft protect not only the companies who have copyrighted products, but the consumers who believe they are legitimately buying those copyrighted products.”

According to his plea agreement, Lin owned and operated two stores in Ocean City, Maryland: Hot Topik, at 401 South Atlantic Avenue, and Everything $5.99 and Up (Hot Topik), at 806 South Atlantic Avenue #8, as well as operating stores in Delaware.  Lin admitted that from at least June 2010 through at least September 2011, he sold, and attempted to sell counterfeit merchandise, including purses, handbags, shirts, jewelry perfume, hats, and shoes that bore trademarks such as Michael Kors, Nike, Monster, Coach, Gucci, Versace, Vera Wang, Louis Vuitton and Channel.

During the summer of 2011, undercover investigators observed large quantities of counterfeit merchandise in Lin’s stores in Ocean City, and several undercover buys of counterfeit merchandise were made, including the purchase of a counterfeit Coach purse.

On the morning of August 17, 2011, federal search warrants were executed at both of Lin’s stores in Ocean City and approximately 8,000 items of counterfeit merchandise were seized.  Two days after the execution of the federal search warrant, an investigator again saw counterfeit merchandise for sale at Everything $5.99 and Up (Hot Topik), including merchandise of the same type seized during the search.  On September 1, 2011, an investigator made an undercover buy of a counterfeit Coach purse at Everything $5.99 and Up (Hot Topik).

On January 30, 2012, Lin was stopped re-entering the United States after a one-day trip to Canada and declared that the only thing he purchased in Canada was liquor from a duty free shop.  A border search of his vehicle recovered approximately 869 pieces of counterfeit jewelry bearing trademarks such as Chanel.

It is estimated by the manufacturers whose goods were counterfeited that the lost retail value (or the retail value of the infringed items) of the goods seized and sold is estimated to be between $200,000 and $400,000.  The estimated retail value of the counterfeit merchandise, based on what Lin was selling the infringing counterfeit items for, is $153,585. 

Lin faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $2 million.  U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for March 27, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

Today’s law enforcement action is an example of the type of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.  To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to http://www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce/.       

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised HSI Ocean City, the Maryland State Police and Ocean City Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Herring, who is prosecuting the case.