July 22, 2015

Leader of Coupon Counterfeiting Ring on Silk Road Websites Pleads Guilty

WASHINGTON—A leader of a coupon counterfeiting ring pleaded guilty today to participating in a conspiracy to sell counterfeit coupons using the “Silk Road” online marketplace, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Beau Wattigney, 30, New Orleans, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle of the Eastern District of Louisiana to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit trademark counterfeiting. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 28, 2015.

In connection with his plea, Wattigney admitted that, between May 2012 and November 2014, he used the online monikers “PurpleLotus” and “GoldenLotus” to sell counterfeit coupons for various goods and services on Silk Road 1.0, which was a hidden website through which users around the world bought and sold illegal drugs, goods and services. Wattigney further admitted that he engaged in the same conduct on Silk Road 2.0, a successor to Silk Road 1.0, using the monikers “PurpleLotus” and “CouponKing.”

The coupons allowed purchasers to obtain significant discounts on a variety of goods and services offered by the victim companies, including Hopster, Veri-fi, SmartSource, RedPlum and Visa. For example, Wattigney sold a counterfeit coupon that allowed users to purchase $50.00 Visa Gift Cards for $0.01 each.

Wattigney admitted that he created and manufactured the fraudulent coupons with the assistance of several co-conspirators, and that they designed the coupons to look like original print-at-home manufacturers’ coupons by using the companies’ trademarks. He also admitted that the scheme affected more than 50 U.S.-based businesses, and caused or attempted to cause more than one million dollars in intended losses.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI Philadelphia Division, with assistance from the FBI New Orleans Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Marie-Flore Johnson, Gavin Corn and Robert Wallace of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg of the Eastern District of Louisiana.