An Anaheim man pleaded guilty Thursday to producing and selling tens of thousands of fake Kohl's coupons in a months-long scheme that netted him about $93,000, federal officials said.
Boi Quoc Vo, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in counterfeit documentation under a plea agreement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the ruse, whichever amount is greater.
“It’s common to encounter intellectual property cases related to phony products, but this is the first time we’ve come across a scheme locally involving counterfeit store coupons,” Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
Vo is scheduled to be sentenced March 3, 2014.
In the plea agreement, Vo admitted he obtained electronic coupons the department store gave customers who signed up for its "email marketing service," then used editing software to "remove or change certain security features" intended to prevent duplication or repeated use of the discounts.
The final fake products, the agreement says, "resembled genuine Kohl's Corporation discount coupons and had security features that caused Kohl's Corporation store personnel to believe they were genuine."
Vo then made thousands of copies of the coupons, which he sold on eBay using different user names and accounts to conceal his identity, according to the plea agreement. The coupons were sold to people in several states, including California.
Vo told authorities he kept records of his sales and expenses, and made about $93,000 from the sales of the phony coupons. But officials said they have not been able to determine how much Kohl's lost because it was unclear how many of the counterfeit coupons were accepted or how much money the retailer would have earned from shoppers had they not used the discounts.
ICE's investigation into the scheme began last year after its Virginia-based National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center got a lead "linking Vo to the possible sale of counterfeit coupons," authorities said. Orange County-based agents were then assisted by eBay and Kohl's, they added.
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