Two accused of importing $2 million worth of counterfeit collectible Disney pins from China
Robert Edward Smyrak, 52, of Anaheim, is charged with one felony count of the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit products, the Orange County district attorney's office said in a statement.
Co-defendant Larry James Allred, 57, of Walnut, is also charged with one felony count of the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit products, authorities said. In addition, he faces sentencing enhancements based on two prior convictions, for rape in 1975 and for kidnapping in 1978.
Smyrak is believed to have masterminded the fraudulent scheme, while Allred is accused of assisting him with the scam, authorities said.
The ruse involved sending legitimate collectible pins to a manufacturer in China to be replicated, prosecutors said. The fake pins were then shipped back to the defendants.
Smyrak and Allred are believed to have received about 80 shipments of counterfeit pins from China, worth an estimated $2 million, prosecutors said.
Officials said the scheme was uncovered in February 2011 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and import specialists intercepted a parcel at Los Angeles International Airport addressed to Smyrak. Inside the package was more than 150 pounds of fake Disney pins, prosecutors said.
On April 14, 2011, Anaheim police arrested Allred and Smyrak, who authorities allege had more than 100,000 forged pins in his possession.
Authorities also arrested Smyrak's girlfriend, Cynthia Lynn Pratt Vedder, 43. She is charged with one felony count of the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit products for independently participating in the same type of scheme, according to information provided by the Orange County D.A.
The investigation was a collaboration of various agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Anaheim Police Department.
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement that American businesses and brands are under attack from counterfeiters who were getting rich at the nation's expense.
"The sale of counterfeit products robs Americans of jobs, stifles American innovation, promotes crime and introduces substandard and sometimes harmful products into commerce," Arnold said.
Smyrak is out of custody on $50,000 bail. If convicted, prosecutors said he faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
Allred is out of custody on his own recognizance. Based on his two prior convictions, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted on the new charges, prosecutors said.
-- Ann M. Simmons
Photos: Some of the counterfeit collectible Disney pins confiscated by authorities. Credit: Orange County district attorney's office