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Ferndale business woman pleads guilty to selling counterfeit items

Warehouse – Source: Western Washington US Attorney’s Office

FERNDALE, Wash. — A Ferndale woman was sentenced April 7th in US District Court in Seattle to 3 months in prison and 3 months home confinement for trafficking in counterfeit goods, according to the US Attorney’s office. Kara Suneva Allen, aka Kara Suneva Mitchell, age 42, pled guilty to the charge in October of 2022.

According to a press release, the judge said at the sentencing hearing, “We cannot tolerate a robin hood mentality in the community…even though you thought you were helping other mothers afford luxury goods, you were actually helping them participate in criminal activity.”

According to records filed in court, Allen operated a business named ‘Keepin Up With Kara’ LLC that was located in a Ferndale warehouse space. As of March of 2022, a website associated with the business advertised 467 different items for sale that appeared to be products made by Adidas, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, MCM, Nike, Prada, Saint Laurent, Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, and UGG. All the products were priced substantially below the suggested retail price for the genuine items according to the press release.

Allen was indicted in May of 2022.

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An investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, US Customs and Border Protection, and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office revealed that in August and September 2021, three shipments destined for Allen and her company were seized from the mail in Oakland, California. The shipments, which originated in China and Hong Kong, contained a wide variety of counterfeit goods, including handbags, wallets, and jewelry. Allen was notified of these seizures, but never petitioned to have the goods in the shipments released. An analysis of shipping records revealed that between September 2021 and March 2022, approximately 46 shipments from China and Hong Kong had been sent to the Ferndale warehouse where ‘Keepin Up With Kara’ operated.

To document Allen’s sale of counterfeit goods, an undercover agent made online purchases from the company’s website. In one instance, the agent made an undercover purchase of a Louis Vuitton-branded handbag for $110. The suggested retail price for that specific authentic Louis Vuitton handbag is $1,690.00. A Louis Vuitton representative confirmed the handbag purchased from the website was counterfeit.

On May 2, 2022, law enforcement executed search and seizure warrants at Allen’s place of business, home, and vehicle. Over 1,800 items of suspected counterfeit merchandise were seized, including purses, scarves, belts, luggage tags, sunglasses, tumblers, and other accessories.

In total, between June 2021 and May 2022, Allen acquired, attempted to acquire, or sold more than 1,900 counterfeit items with an estimated retail value of $185,842. Her profit over that time was approximately $43,430.

As noted in the government’s sentencing memorandum, before the search warrant was executed, Allen was told more than once that what she was doing was illegal. Allen “received several letters from CBP and Louis Vuitton’s counsel putting her on notice that her business activities were unlawful. It is an aggravating factor that, despite these numerous opportunities to cease … operations, Allen nonetheless persisted in obtaining and selling counterfeit merchandise, and even instructed an employee to describe that merchandise using coded language to avoid detection,” Special Assistant United States Attorney Jessica M. Ly wrote in her sentencing memorandum.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from US Customs and Border Protection, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, US Postal Inspection Service, the Ferndale Police Department, and the National Intellectual Property Rights Center. US Attorney’s office Western District of Washington (April 7, 2023)

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