Leaders of Counterfeit Goods Ring Plead Guilty
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 26, 2012|
COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Azmi Azzam Al-Hamouri, age 40, and Mahmoud T. Al-Mahmoud, age 34, both of Columbus, Ohio, pled guilty today in federal court in Anderson to trafficking in counterfeit goods, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain of Anderson accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that on January 25, 2012, federal and state law enforcement officers served multiple search warrants and arrest warrants at business locations in Columbus, Ohio, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. The operation was the result of a 15-month undercover investigation conducted by the FBI into the sale of counterfeit goods in South Carolina. Agents seized four tractor-trailer loads of counterfeit athletic shoes, jeans, watches, and other items of apparel.
The Columbus location did business as PJ’s Wholesale and was owned and operated by Al-Hamouri and Al-Mahmoud. PJ’s Wholesale had been supplying counterfeit goods to Issa M. Saba, age 55, and Hany Samir Nagib, age 47, both of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Saba and Nagib owned and operated New Deal’s Market (“Deal’s”) and Fast Point Convenience Store (“Fast Point”) in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Saba and Nagib pled guilty to their involvement in the conspiracy back in the summer. Deal’s and Fast Point were but two of dozens of businesses throughout the United States that sold counterfeit apparel items originating from PJ’s.
The counterfeit goods were shipped to Deal’s and Fast Point via interstate commercial carriers such as UPS, transported to South Carolina via freight shipping companies, and delivered to Spartanburg by agents of PJ’s. On other occasions, Saba and others would travel to Ohio to pick up the counterfeit goods.
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Al-Hamouri can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for five years, plus a special assessment of $100. As part of the plea, Al-Hamouri and Al-Mahmoud agreed to pay $1,000,000 in restitution to the trademark holders.
The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Spartanburg Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorney Max Cauthen and Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.