FRESNO, Calif. — Two Mexican nationals made their initial appearance in federal court Wednesday on charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents executed a search warrant at a rural Fresno-area home, seizing more than 70,000 pirated copies of music and movies.
Alberto Campos-Limon, 24, and Jose Jeronimo-Jimenez, 32, both of Fresno, were taken into custody Tuesday by Fresno HSI agents. They are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy; copyright infringement; and trafficking in counterfeit labels. The illegal activities allegedly occurred between Feb. 28 and April 24. Each offense carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.
A third suspect, Arnoldo Chavez-Mendoza, 50, a Mexican national who currently resides in Tulare, was arrested on state charges of copyright infringement after agents conducting the enforcement action observed him purchasing several hundred audio CDs from the two defendants.
The suspects were taken into custody at a rural Fresno-area residence where investigators discovered the bulk of the counterfeit music and movie disks. During a search of the home, investigators also found a variety of equipment commonly used to mass produce DVDs and CDs.
"Commercial piracy and product counterfeiting undermine the U.S. economy, rob Americans of jobs, stifle American innovation and promote other types of crime," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge who oversees HSI Fresno. "Intellectual property theft amounts to economic sabotage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively pursue product counterfeiters and those who sell counterfeit products."
Tuesday’s enforcement action is the culmination of a probe that began in February. According to the criminal complaint in the case, during the ensuing investigation agents made multiple undercover purchases of counterfeit DVDS, including films such as "Safe House," "In Time," "Haywire" and "Red Tails." Among the titles seized Tuesday at the residence were numerous first run movies, including "Hunger Games" and "American Reunion." All told, agents have seized more than 70,000 counterfeit DVDs and CDs in connection with the investigation. Authorities estimate the retail value of those disks at more than $900,000.
HSI received substantial assistance with the investigation from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
"On behalf of the RIAA, I extend my sincere gratitude to HSI in Fresno for their successful action this week against local pirate distributors," said Brad Buckles, who oversees RIAA's anti-piracy program. "Their efforts in bringing to justice those who are active in the underground illegal market help protect the economic health of area music retailers and the continuing flow of important tax revenue from legitimate purchases. This kind of vigilance also helps music creators invest in talented artists."
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.
HSI manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the HSI-led IPR Center, visit IPRCenter.gov.