A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were arrested today for their role in an international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón of the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement.
Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 53, and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 39, were indicted by a grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, and charged with conspiracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods. According to the indictment and other court documents, from September 2017 through December 2019, Thompson Jr. and Zhang allegedly sold counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags from e-commerce accounts to persons throughout the United States.
Thompson Jr. is employed by the U.S. Department of State as an Information Programs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea. Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms, all from within a secure space within the Embassy designed to protect classified information. Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon. Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance. Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon are prosecuting the case.
At the State Department, the Information Programs Officer (IPO) manages the Information Programs Center (IPC) and is responsible for all IPC systems, programs, and telecommunications operations. According to the FAM, the IPC is primarily responsible for all classified Information Resource Management communications and systems.
Count 1 of the Grand Jury Charges is Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods) (18 U.S.C. § 2320(a))
“From at least in or about September 2017 and continuing until at least the date of this Indictment, in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, Defendants, GENE LEROY THOMPSON, JR., a.k.a. Eugene Leroy Thompson, Jr., and GUOJIAO ZHANG, a.k.a. Becky Zhang, a.k.a. Becky Thompson, knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with each other and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to intentionally traffic in goods, namely Vera Bradley handbags, while knowingly using on and in connection with such goods counterfeit marks, the use of which counterfeit marks was likely to cause confusion, mistake, and deception; Indictment . Page 1 Revised April 2018 Case 6:19-cr-00561-MC Document 1 Filed 12/11/19 Page 1 of 7 In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320(a).”
Item #9 of the Indictment notes:
“On or about April 23, 2018, Vera Bradley sent cease-and-desist letters to the coconspirator’s home in Nyssa, Oregon. On or about April 26, 2018, that co-conspirator conveyed the information in the cease-and-desist letter to THOMPSON, JR. via e-mail, saying that Vera Bradley is “requesting that you immediately cease and desist from offering for sale any Vera Bradley counterfeit products and destroy any violating products.” THOMPSON, JR. replied, “OK, I thought this would happen. Stop all shipment.” THOMPSON, JR. then sent an e-mail to ZHANG stating, “Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you.”
Also item #10 further notes:
“Subsequently, Defendants began creating e-commerce accounts in the name of aliases and used those accounts to continue selling counterfeit Vera Bradley merchandise.”