Counterfeiting & International Crime
International Counterfeiting, the fast “rising star” of international crime, is growing every year. According to the World Customs Organization, it now may be a $600 billion “industry” worldwide. The International Trademark Association (INTA) suggests it may even be higher.
International Counterfeiting undermines international trade market and global economic stability. In a world of the far-reaching Internet (a virtual world – think eBay, e.g. – of promotion and sale which simplifies and escalates counterfeiting) it affects both consumer and industry. It attacks a nation’s currency. It is acknowledged as a functional aid to terrorism and a threat to national security.
International Counterfeiting frequently overlaps with other international crimes, but it is not a category of these crimes. It is its own criminal offense with its own categories. Government laws and international agreements have been enacted because of it. When prosecuted, it has its own penalties and punishments.
U.S. agencies – the Secret Service, the IRS, and the FBI, e.g. – are dedicated to the task of battling International Counterfeiting in the U.S. and overseas. Frequently they partner with international groups such as INTERPOL, Scotland Yard and other foreign task forces, investigating, pooling knowledge and resources.
Stamping out counterfeiting is tricky. Despite well-intentioned initiatives, the playing field is not level. Home laws don’t apply overseas (the exception being counterfeiting currency, a national security threat). Jurisdictions and prosecutions differ. Perceptions and economic conditions differ. Shadowy international criminal organizations often “move shop” before the cavalry arrives.
If it’s counterfeit it’s an illusion. Counterfeiting is the act of imitating something original, then passing off the imitation as original. A counterfeit is a fake – a fraudulent replica of a real product. It is produced with one deliberate criminal intent, to take advantage of the value of an original.
A list of International Counterfeiting types include:
•Currency (U.S. and foreign), federal checks, notes, bonds
•Official U.S. documents including postal money orders and meter or printed stamps, federal court documents and seals, customs documents for collection of duties, food stamps, security documents, passports and visas
•Non-official U.S. documents including business and legal logs, ledgers, books, contracts, proposals, affidavits, public records, bank securities, loan agreements, personal and business checks, bank money orders
•Consumer goods including toys, clothing, watches, handbags, shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, luggage, colognes and perfumes, software and electronics, auto parts, power and hand tools, music and movies
•Intellectual property including trademarks, logos, patents
•Antiques, works of art, rare books and coins, collectables
•Counterfeiting money is one of the oldest crimes in world history (once punishable by death).
•Counterfeiting a nation’s currency, a primary concern of all governments, is attacked aggressively.
•The $100 bill is the most-forged of all U.S. currency. North Korea is the biggest culprit.
•China is the counterfeit capital of the world.
•In the Digital Money Age (via PayPal and other secure payment sites, e.g.) old-tech engraved plates share space with cheap, portable color copiers. Counterfeiting currency is still a thriving career path for a criminal.
•Counterfeiting goods is condoned or “overlooked” by some governments – even to saying a counterfeit is a “compliment” to the original.
•On the street counterfeit consumer goods are known as “knock offs.”
•Knock offs have a justified reputation for being low quality. (Still, for some it’s their only chance to parade a Gucci or Fendi, even when fake.)
What do U.S. agencies do? They may be armed with Congressional anti-counterfeiting law and consumer-protection legislation. They may use mandates such as RICO, the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act and FCPA (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). But they can’t go overseas and bust an international criminal counterfeiting enterprise.
They look to home. They target, investigate and prosecute individual vendors and others allegedly involved in the criminal manufacture, distribution and sale of counterfeit consumer goods, intellectual property, etc., seizing goods and leveling a barrage of charges, allegations and severe penalties.
Frequently, these defendants are the other victims in International Counterfeiting. As often as not, they are pawns in this international crime world, forced into participation by extortion, coercion or violence to family and friends here and abroad. Or it may have been an accident: They trusted and believed the goods or currency to be real.
The Blanch Law Firm does not forget the defendant. Our firm is dedicated to fully investigating and understanding the circumstances and our client. We believe the government, through its agencies, only presents part of the story. We want to the whole story.
The Blanch Law Firm team of litigators, after years of experience, is well-prepared for the confusing arena of International Counterfeiting criminal activity. We handle cases in the greater New York area, as well as in Los Angeles, Orange County, greater Southern California, and Houston, TX.
If you are the focus of an International Counterfeiting criminal investigation – or if an investigation is pending – contact The Blanch Law Firm today by calling 212 736 3900. Initial consultations are complimentary and confidential.