Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca S. Kanter (619) 546-7304 and C. Seth Askins (619) 546-6692
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 21, 2017
SAN DIEGO – Robert Erie, the former Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of E-World Recyclers, LLC, was sentenced today to 21 months custody for trafficking in counterfeit goods. His conviction relates to a contract he obtained to destroy counterfeit merchandise seized by the federal government. Instead of destroying or “e-recycling” the counterfeit goods as he was required to do (and as he certified), Erie instead diverted the counterfeit merchandise and trafficked in it for commercial advantage.
E-World Recyclers was an electronic recycling service company which operated out of Vista, California. In late 2009, E-World received a sub-contract to perform electronic recycling services related to counterfeit goods seized by Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”). Between approximately November 4, 2009, and December 18, 2009, E-World received approximately 38 shipments containing approximately 1,888 pallets of counterfeit goods seized by CBP.
Erie instructed E-World employees to sign documents to submit to government agencies certifying the destruction of CBP-seized counterfeit goods. In fact, Erie knew that the goods had not all been destroyed. Instead, on approximately December 24, 2009, Erie rented a personal storage unit in San Marcos, California, and transported some of the CBP-seized counterfeit goods to his personal storage unit, including watches bearing counterfeit marks related to Paneri, Cartier, Romain Jerome, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Chanel, Bebe, Brietling, Omega Graham, Corum, Gucci, Ed Hardy, Coach and Dolce Gabbana, and headphones bearing counterfeit marks related to Bose. Erie maintained the storage unit through September 8, 2011, when federal agents executed a court-authorized search warrant and seized, among other things, (1) 2,275 counterfeit watches bearing marks registered to Chanel, Gucci, Coach, Ed Hardy and other companies; (2) 524 counterfeit pens bearing mark(s) registered to Montblanc; and (3) 12 counterfeit in-ear headphones bearing mark(s) registered to Bose.
In the meantime, after removing the counterfeit goods from E-World but prior to federal agents search and seizure, Erie trafficked in the counterfeit merchandise for his own commercial advantage. For example, on approximately January 25, 2010, for Eroe sent at least four separate shipments consisting of multiple boxes of CBP-seized counterfeit watches to business associates who were affiliated with a glass company in Ohio to whom E-World owed money.
Judge Anthony J. Battaglia imposed a two-level upward adjustment for obstruction of justice based on Erie’s alteration of e-mails in an attempt to thwart the prosecution. Specifically, the Court found that in approximately February 2010, Erie altered e-mail correspondence from September 2009 between himself and a Cycle Chem representative, which defendant then sent in approximately August 2011, to his then criminal defense attorney. The defendant’s criminal defense attorney then sent the altered e-mail correspondence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order to dissuade the U.S. Attorney’s Office from seeking criminal charges against defendant for his unlawful trafficking in CBP-seized counterfeit merchandise. The alteration of the e-mails had the effect of falsely suggesting that the contractor from whom E-World had obtained the subcontract had giving Erie permission to redistribute and/or remarket the counterfeit watches, which it had not.
Amanda Thandi, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, San Diego Field Office, said, “The collaborative investigation effort between DHS OIG and HSI played a pivotal role in the successful prosecution of this case. The DHS OIG’s vigilant oversight of government contractors like E-World Recyclers is imperative to safeguard taxpayer dollars.”
“Bob Erie was trusted to do one thing with the counterfeit goods illegally being imported at the land and sea borders: Keep it out of the stream of commerce by assuring its destruction or recycling,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “Instead, he used the seized counterfeit goods to advance his own personal agenda and commercial advantage, to the detriment of the trademark holders, the United States, and ultimately his own company. This crime was especially egregious because of Erie’s attempts to obstruct justice by falsifying e-mails, which were sent to the United States Attorney’s Office in an effort to avoid prosecution. The United States will continue to vigorously enforce intellectual property crimes and protect the property interests of American companies against abusers like Erie.”
He pleaded guilty on February 23, 2017, and admitted that the retail value of the infringed items trafficked by defendant was at least $1,450,000. In addition to the sentence of 21 months’ custody, Erie was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Erie, who was released on bond during the pendency of the proceedings, was ordered to surrender on September 5, 2017 to the Bureau of Prisons.
Erie was previously convicted and sentenced in June 2013 to five years’ probation for being a felon in possession of a firearm (11cr5796-AJB.)
DEFENDANTS Case Number 14cr3660-AJB
Robert Erie Age: 53 Carlsbad, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: 5 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General
Homeland Security Investigations, Intellectual Property & Trade Investigations
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of California