Guilty Pleas In Livestrong Bracelet Counterfeiting Case
Attorney General Spitzer today announced that an illegal enterprise that imported and sold counterfeit LiveSTRONG bracelets in New York City has been put out of business and that the participants in the criminal enterprise have pleaded guilty in state court. In addition, the defendants in the case have turned over $111,830 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation as part of their sentences.
"This was a cynical scheme to profit from the public’s strong support for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s work," said Attorney General Spitzer. "The sale of each counterfeit bracelet deprived the charity of money that could further its work in cancer treatment and research. I am pleased that the ill-gotten gains we recovered from this illegal enterprise will be turned over to the Lance Armstrong Foundation."
"The New York Attorney General’s office has made substantial progress in ensuring that when Lance Armstrong Foundation supporters buy a LiveSTRONG wristband, they can feel confident that the LAF and people living with cancer benefit from their generosity and support," said Betty Otter-Nickerson, chief operating officer of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
The Attorney General’s Office secured guilty pleas in the case after shutting down the counterfeiting ring in April when investigators from Spitzer’s office and the State Police raided two distribution facilities in Queens and Manhattan. During the raids, more than 80,000 counterfeit bracelets and over $100,000 in cash were seized.
New York State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said: "Stealing money from cancer survivors and their families is despicable. These arrests have stopped a criminal enterprise that in reality had multiple victims: the individual consumers who were defrauded, whose intentions to contribute to cancer survivors were thwarted; and a legitimate charity and its deserving beneficiaries."
The counterfeiting operation was headed by Li Ping Liang Chen, who operated Eastlink International, Inc. - - an import-export company - - from her home in Queens. Chen arranged to have the counterfeit LiveSTRONG bracelets produced in China, and imported into the United States through Kennedy International Airport. Undercover investigators working on the case purchased a box containing over 1,000 counterfeit wristbands at a store at 34 West 27th Street operated by some of the defendants in this case. According to US Customs agents, the airbill number on this box of counterfeit bracelets established that it was imported by Eastlink International.
In prosecutions related to this case:
- Li Ping Liang Chen, of 6846 Dartmouth Street, Queens, pleaded guilty to Trademark Counterfeiting in the Second Degree, a class E felony, and was sentenced to pay $101,830 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation;Su Qin Weng, of 34-19 69th Street, Queens, pleaded guilty to Trademark Counterfeiting in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to pay $5,000 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation;Ding Chai Ye, of 37-10 64th Street, Woodside, pleaded guilty to Trademark Counterfeiting in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to pay $5,000 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation;Wei Hua Chen, the husband of Li Ping Liang Chen, of 6846 Dartmouth Street, Queens, pleaded guilty to a violation and was sentenced to seven days of community service; Su Ping Qu, husband of Su Qin Weng, of 34-19 69th Street, Queens, pleaded guilty to a violation and was sentenced to five days of community service; and,
- Xi Chen, of 143-30 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, pleaded guilty to a violation and was sentenced to four days of community service.
Founded in 1997, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is a charitable organization that funds programs providing services to cancer patients. The foundation also funds scientific and clinical research that seeks to better understand cancer's physical, emotional and practical effects.
The foundation sells distinctive bright yellow wristbands engraved with LiveSTRONG™ for $1 each. Proceeds from the sale of the bracelets are used to further the foundation’s mission. To date, approximately 55 million wristbands have been sold since the LiveSTRONG fund-raising campaign began in the Spring of 2004.
Attorney General Spitzer thanked Senior Investigator Eliezer Roman and Investigators William Connolly and Eric Castellar of the New York State Police for their work in investigating this case.
The New York City counterfeiting sweep follows a case in which the Attorney General’s Office shut down an operation that was selling fake LiveSTRONG bracelets from a kiosk in a shopping center in Greece, near Rochester. In that case, $12,000 was returned to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Consumers are encouraged to report any sales of counterfeit LiveSTRONG bracelets by calling the Attorney General’s toll-free help line at 1-800-771-7755.
The New York City counterfeiting case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Johanna Sullivan of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau under the supervision of the Deputy Bureau Chief Viola Abbitt.