A couple from Columbia, Missouri, was charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of criminal copyright infringement for profit. What copyright did they infringe upon? Well, by their own separate admissions in federal court, one that belongs to The Walt Disney Company.
The couple was suspected of scheming to smuggle Disney DVDs into the United States from Hong Kong and sell them for profit on eBay. They had to be smuggled because they were illegal counterfeit DVDs.
Forty-two-year-old Tabitha Nicole Rodgers, and her husband, 48-year-old Clint Travis Rodgers, of Columbia, Missouri, made separate appearances before Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps, Jr., of the Western District of Missouri Federal Court.
Before Judge Epps, Ms. Rodgers pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement for profit, while her husband Clint pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal infringement of a copyright.
In the summer of 2014, the Department of Homeland Security, specifically Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) got a tip from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, letting the department know that Mr. Rodgers had been the recipient of nearly 450 shipments from a company in Hong Kong that was known for dealing in counterfeit items.
The contents within the 443 shipments received by Mr. Rodgers were counterfeit DVDs of Disney movies. One shipment alone contained 200 counterfeit DVDs of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, while another shipment contained 260 counterfeit DVDs of Disney’s Aladdin. Both shipments were reportedly seized before they could be delivered to the Rodgers’s home in Missouri.
In early 2015, agents with Customs and Border Protection seized yet another shipment that was addressed to Mr. Rodgers. That shipment contained approximately 200 counterfeit Disney DVDs. In February and March of that year, federal agents, working in an undercover capacity, purchased some of the bogus DVDs on eBay from the Rodgers, who asserted that the DVDs were authentic Disney merchandise, even though they knew the DVDs were counterfeit renditions. The agents also contacted two people who had assisted the Rodgers, both of whom told investigators that there were copious amounts of complaints about the DVDs from customers who purchased them, some even saying that the DVDs didn’t work at all.
In late August of 2015, HSI agents were able to serve a search warrant at the Rodgers’ home. During the search, agents found loads of counterfeit DVDs and other counterfeit goods. It was then that Tabitha Rodgers admitted she was the one who conducted the daily operations of the couples’ fraudulent business.
A plea agreement was reached today, and under the terms of that agreement, Ms. Rodgers must pay restitution to the government. That amount is to be determined but will represent her share of the profits she gained as a result of the criminal operation.
She is subject to up to five years in federal prison without the possibility of parole for her part in the operation. Her husband Clint is subject to up to one year in federal prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing in this case will take place at a later date.