WEST VALLEY MAN SENTENCED TO 10 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR TRAFFICKING IN COUNTERFEIT VIDEO TAPES
SALT LAKE CITY A West Valley City man who participated in counterfeiting and pirating of original Asian language motion pictures at two separate stores in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area which involved making duplicate copies of copyrighted movies and then affixing a counterfeit trade mark to the tapes has been sentenced today to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay a $500 fine.
Thanh Thien Ngo (DOB 12-31-56) of West Valley City, charged in a one-count felony Information in late April, pleaded guilty May 10 to one count of trafficking in counterfeit trademarked goods. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge David Sam. Judge Sam also ordered three years of supervised release for Ngo upon his release from prison. Ngo will surrender to authorities to begin his sentence on August 7, 2001.
From about September 1997 to about March 1998, Ngo owned and operated "Thuy Hang Video and Gifts" on Redwood Road in West Valley City. As a part of his activities at the store, Ngo copied pre-recorded foreign language motion pictures onto video tapes; created counterfeit labels bearing the Tai Seng Video Marketing trademark, registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; placed the counterfeit labels onto the video tapes; and made them available for rental.
This case involves two different kinds of illegal intellectual property infringement, U.S. Attorney Paul M. Warner explained today, because the defendants "goods" were not merely illegally marked with a counterfeit mark, but were actually items he had illegally manufactured by reproducing copyrighted movies and television shows without authority from the holder of the copyrights.
"The defendant piled illegality upon illegality. In other words, it isnt just like someone stitching a counterfeit Olympic logo onto a T-shirt. In this case, it is as if he were selling counterfeit Olympic shirts by stitching a counterfeit logo onto shirts that he himself had previously stolen," Warner said.
"Prosecuting intellectual property crime is an important part of safeguarding the foundation of the global economy in todays information age," said Michael Chertoff, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departments Criminal Division. "The copyrighted motion pictures at issue in this case that were produced abroad have received vigorous protection by American law enforcement, just as American-produced motion pictures and other intellectual property deserve protection worldwide."
Warner said this case also merited prosecution because the defendant continued to engage in his counterfeiting and piracy and encouraged others to become involved even though he knew that his actions were illegal and that the victim objected. "He simply paid no heed to Tai Sengs copyrights and trademark," Warner said.
According to court records, in January 1998, Ngo received a cease-and-desist letter from the general counsel for Tai Seng Video Marketing. Federal authorities say Ngo had seen the FBI warning labels on the original video tapes he was copying and understood it was illegal to copy the tapes. Despite receiving the letter from the video company, Ngo continued to produce counterfeit tapes.
When law enforcement authorities executed a search of the Thuy Hang business in March 1998, more than 13,380 video tapes were seized.
As a part of the plea agreement, Ngo also admitted that he helped encourage others to engage in pirating videos even though he knew the actions were illegal.
In April 1999, Ngo suggested to Phuong Kim Vo and Duc Nguyen, not named as defendants in the present case, that they operate a video store. Ngo sold the remaining video tapes and equipment from Thuy Hang Video-Gift-Music to Vo and Nguyen for $2,000. He consented to his name being used for the "Thien Thanh Video-Gift-Music" store in Taylorsville. He set up VCRs in the back room for purpose of duplicating original videos. From April until August 1999, Ngo helped with the operation of the store on occasion. When law enforcement agencies searched the store in August 1999, more than 4,540 video tapes were seized.
Vo and Nguyen had pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor copyright infringement in August 2000 in connection with the "Thien Thanh Video-Gift-Music" store. They were sentenced in November 2000 to 36 months probation with special conditions.
Court records say that in all, more than 17,920 tapes were seized in connection with video stores owned or operated by Ngo. At least 50 percent or 8,960 of these video tapes bear a counterfeit Tai Seng trademark. The retail value of the counterfeit video tapes is at least $10, federal authorities say. The retail value of legitimate Tai Seng video tapes is about $25 each.
"The courts sentence accurately reflects the seriousness of the harm caused by Mr. Ngo through his repeated and undeterred counterfeiting and piracy activities. He willfully infringed on the intellectual property rights of others, despite repeated notice that the conduct was wrong and the victim objected. This case sends a clear message to others who may be tempted to engage in intellectual property theft. These federal laws will be vigorously enforced," Warner said.
This case was prosecuted jointly by the United States Attorneys Office and the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, with assistance from agents of the Salt Lake City office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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