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Two U.S. Citizens Linked to More than $2 Million in Counterfeit Merchandise Arrested by ICE Special Agents in New Orleans

From: ICE News Release         Filed 11/29/06  GCN

NEW ORLEANS - Two U.S. citizens indicted for trafficking more than $2 million in counterfeit items were arrested here Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents.

Charles Temple, 39, and Abraham Quraan, 23, were indicted on Nov. 16 in the Eastern District of Louisiana on one count each of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise in violation of 18, US Code 2320. 

The counterfeit goods were seized by ICE special agents following the execution of 15 federal search warrants at locations linked to Temple and Quraan. The items seized included counterfeit Nike shoes and counterfeit Prada and Coach handbags. 

“The creation, smuggling and sale of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime,” said Michael A. Holt, special-agent-in-charge of the New Orleans ICE office.  “These products are produced illegally harming the trademark holders, smuggled into the country and distributed by organized crime groups and sold to the detriment of local businesses and communities who derive no financial gain from the illegal sales. ICE is committed to an aggressive approach towards enforcing the nation’s Intellectual Property Rights laws.”

In recent years, counterfeiting, piracy, and other Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violations have grown in magnitude and complexity, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue and often posing health and safety risks to U.S. consumers. In 1998, the International Chamber of Commerce estimated that five to seven percent of world trade was comprised of counterfeit goods, a market worth some $350 billion. In May 2004, the United States Trade Representative published its annual Special 301 Report in which it estimated that U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion to counterfeiting annually.

The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of enabling technology allowing for simple, low-cost duplication of copyrighted products, as well as by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit.  In many cases, international organized crime groups bankroll their criminal activities, including illegal drug trafficking, the sale of illegal weapons and even the possible funding of terrorist attacks by using the enormous profits realized from the sale of counterfeit goods.

ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.

In fiscal year 2005, ICE agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers together made 8,022 seizures of counterfeit goods worth $93 million, an increase from the roughly 7,225 seizures the previous fiscal year. Together ICE and CBP have seized roughly $700 million worth of counterfeit goods from FY 1998 through FY 2005.

Holt thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Louisiana State Police, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the New Orleans Police Department for their participation in the investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Mike Magner is handling the prosecution of the case for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The ICE investigation into the case is ongoing.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.  ICE is comprised of four integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.

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