Counterfeiting and Piracy are the perfect types of crimes for gang members and organized crime groups to be involved in. The answer why is very simple. These criminals face very low risk, however the rewards are extremely great. These crimes are all about the money. Gangsters can make more money selling counterfeit goods than doing robberies, selling dope, or carrying out their other normal street hustling crimes. Counterfeiters can make tens of thousands of dollars a month hawking their counterfeit CDs or handbags. It is amazing how much demand exists for counterfeit goods, so this creates the “Perfect Storm” for the gangsters to make big money.
The gangsters face little risk of going to prison. However they are making money hand over fist selling counterfeit goods. They are making the same amount of money as if they were selling kilos of Cocaine. Remember, if you get caught selling kilos of Cocaine, you are going to prison for 10 years. So why sell kilos of Cocaine when you can sell counterfeit goods and make just as much money and not risk going to prison for 10 years?
The gangsters take advantage of every aspect of IP Crimes. In areas that have high concentrations of stores and street vendors, the gangsters have been known to “tax” the vendors in the area to allow them to sell their counterfeit goods. In one case in Los Angeles, two 18th Street Gang Members were arrested after shooting and killing a three week old child.
It was reported that the gang members approached a vendor that was selling pirated DVD movies on the street. The vendor had his newly born son with him. The gang members approached him and demanded that he pay them “tax” for selling the DVDs in their area. When the vendor refused, they shot at him, however they struck and killed his young son.
In another case, gang members suspected that a “fellow” seller of counterfeit items had “ratted” them out to law enforcement about where they were making their counterfeit items. The gangsters chased the subject down and stabbed him multiple times and then they set him on fire and left him on the street to die.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department completed a counterfeiting case involving sunglasses, perfumes, and shoes. One of the subjects arrested turned out to be a previously deported El Monte Flores Gang member with a history of violence towards police officers. The subject’s father turned out to be a high ranking member of Le Eme, The Mexican Mafia. During the investigation, law enforcement seized over 2 million dollars worth of counterfeit goods.
There are many stories of hard core gangsters and their associates becoming involved in IP Crimes. There are documented cases involving the following groups of gang members:
MS-13 • 18TH Street • East Coast Crips • Grape Street Crips • El Monte Flores
36th Street Gang • Rough Riders • 4 Trey Crips • 42nd Street Little Gangsters
Slauson Boys • Compton Crips
The counterfeiting and piracy laws are in place, however it is not often when counterfeiters are ever sentenced to lengthy prison terms and until these gang members feel that counterfeiting is no longer worth the risk, they will continue to become deeply involved in counterfeiting and piracy and reap large financial benefits. If you want to learn more about the ties between IP Crimes and organized crime groups, it is suggested that you visit the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition’s (IACC) website at iacc.org. On the IACC’s site, you should review the IACC’s “White Paper” and “Facts on Fakes.” The links to organized crime and IP crimes are outlined in greater detail. It is important to realize that IP Crimes create a huge opportunity for the gangsters to make money to fund their other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, extortion, identity theft, murders, human trafficking, and other serious and violent crimes. The easy opportunity that these crimes create must be taken away from these serious criminals. The gangsters must not be allowed to engage in IP Crimes to benefit their violent criminal organizations.