One may hear the stories – if you go down to Canal Street in New York City, you can find designer goods for cheap prices. However, most New Yorkers know that many of those items are actually counterfeit goods. This includes fake bags, perfumes, sportswear. In the counterfeiting business, these knock-off items can mean big bucks for those selling the forgeries. But doing so can carry criminal consequences in both the state and federal systems.
New York State Charges Relating to Counterfeit Goods
Under New York’s Penal Law, a person can be charged with trademark counterfeiting. Specifically, the law prohibits the manufacturing, distribution, or selling of goods which bear a counterfeit trademark. To be charged, the person must know that the goods are counterfeit, and they must have an intent to deceive or defraud or evade a lawful restriction relating to the trademark.
For any violation of the law, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. If the retail value of the goods bearing the counterfeit trademarks exceeds $1,000, a person can be charged with a class E felony. Thereafter, if the value of the counterfeit goods exceeds $100,000, a person can be charged with a class C felony.
Federal Charges for Trafficking Counterfeit Goods
In the federal system, there are various offenses related to counterfeiting. Often times, an individual is charged with trafficking in counterfeiting goods under 18 U.S. Code § 2320. The term “traffic” means transporting, and generally refers to the importing and exporting of goods in this situation.
When it comes to penalties, a judge can impose a term of prison of up to 10 years, and for a second or subsequent offense up to 20 years. In cases where serious bodily injury occurs, imprisonment can be up to 20 years. And in cases involving death, a life sentence in prison can be imposed. In terms of fines, they run in the millions of dollars.
Earlier this month, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced its largest-ever seizure of counterfeit items. In this seizure, agents recovered approximately 219,000 counterfeit bags, clothes, shoes, and other luxury products with an estimated retail value of $1.03 billion. As a result, two individuals were charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods.
- Penal Law Article 165, Other Offenses Relating to Theft. Available at: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PEN/P3TJA165 (last accessed Nov. 29, 2023).
- 18 U.S. Code Chapter 25, Counterfeiting and Forgery. Available at: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/part-I/chapter-25 (last accessed Nov. 29, 2023).
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