A sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security led to the arrests and convictions of a couple from Missouri who were fined and sentenced to serve time in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges involving smuggling and selling counterfeit Disney DVDs online.
Tabitha Nicole Rodgers, 43, and her husband, Clint Travis Rodgers, 49, were sentenced during separate appearances before a federal judge after each was convicted of participating in a scheme to smuggle counterfeit Disney DVDs into the United States from Hong Kong, represent them as legitimate, and sell them online. But gathering evidence in the case, catching the couple red-handed, bringing them to trial, and winning convictions against them took a lot of patience–nine years of it, to be exact.
Convictions Nine Years in the Making
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Ms. Rodgers and Mr. Rodgers were suspected of working a plan to have counterfeit Disney DVDs smuggled into the United States and sell them online at the eBay Marketplace as genuine, authentic Disney goods for profit.
In 2014, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center contacted federal authorities. Representatives with the Coordination Center told authorities that Mr. Rodgers had received hundreds of shipments of counterfeit Disney DVDs from companies located in Hong Kong–companies known for selling and exporting various types of counterfeit items.
In February 2015, Customs and Border Protection agents intercepted two shipments of the DVDs before the parcels reached the Rodgers’s home in Colombia, Missouri. Of the two shipments seized, one reportedly contained 200 fake DVDs featuring Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991), and the other contained 260 counterfeit Aladdin (1992) DVDs.
Also in February 2015, as well as March 2015, undercover federal agents purchased several of the counterfeit Disney home movies on eBay through a listing by Tabitha Rodgers and Clint Rodgers. According to the agents, the DVDs were presented as genuine and authentic Disney products, though the couple knew they were fake.
Additionally, agents contacted two individuals who had helped sell the DVDs, though without knowing they were counterfeit. Those individuals cooperated with the federal investigation, giving agents information about complaints from customers about the DVDs not being operational.
In August 2015, federal agents executed a search warrant at the home of Tabitha and Clint Rodgers in Columbia, Missouri, seizing counterfeit Disney DVDs, among other fake goods.
Sentences Handed Down by a Federal Judge
In response to the charges against them, Ms. Rodgers pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement for profit, while Mr. Rodgers pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal infringement of a copyright. Earlier this year, after being convicted of the charges against them in individual trials, both were sentenced to federal prison by Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps, Jr., of the Western District of Missouri Federal Court.
Tabitha Rodgers received four years in prison without parole, and her husband, Clint Rodgers, was sentenced to one year in prison without parole.
In addition to jail time, a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice details further penalties incurred by Ms. Rodgers and Mr. Rodgers:
The court also ordered Tabitha Rodgers to pay $26,573 in restitution to the government for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits she was not entitled to receive. The court ordered Clint Rodgers to pay a $10,000 fine. [In 2021], Tabitha Rodgers pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement for profit. Clint Rodgers pleaded guilty the same day to a misdemeanor count of criminal infringement of a copyright.