OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City Boardwalk store owner last week pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking in high-end counterfeit merchandise after a raid in August 2011.
Liang Lin, 34, a Delaware resident, last week pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit merchandise at two Boardwalk stores he operated including Hot Topik in the area of 4th Street and Everything $5.99 and Up in the area of 8th Street. The two stores were raided by federal investigators and roughly 8,000 items of counterfeit goods were seized including but not limited to Coach, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci and others.
In the plea arrangement, 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 false trademarks closely resembling the real goods. During the summer of 2011, undercover investigators observed large quantities of counterfeit merchandise in Lin’s Ocean City Boardwalk stores and several undercover buys were made including the purchase of a counterfeit Coach purse.
On the morning of Aug. 17, 2011, federal search warrants were executed at both of Lin’s Ocean City stores and roughly 8,000 items of counterfeit merchandize were seized. Just two days after the execution of the federal search warrant, an investigator again saw counterfeit merchandize for sale at Everything $5.99 and Up including the same types seized during the raid two days earlier.
In January 2012, Lin was stopped re-entering the U.S. after a one-day trip to Canada and declared the only thing he purchased was liquor from a duty-free shop. However, a border stop of his vehicle recovered roughly 870 pieces of counterfeit jewelry bearing trademarks such as Chanel.
The manufacturers whose goods were counterfeited estimate that the lost retail value, or the retail value of the infringed items, would range from $200,000 to $400,000. The estimated retail value of the counterfeit items based on the price for which Lin was selling them came to $153,585.
Lin faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $2 million. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 27. U.S. Rod Rosenstein said Lin grossly infringed on several high-end trademarks.
“Entrepreneurs are free to sell cheap clothing, shoes, handbags and other consumer items, but they cannot use someone else’s trademark,” he said.
U.S. Homeland Security Special Agent William Winter said actions like Lin’s not only dupe consumers but have overall lasting impacts as well.
“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,” he said. “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.”