Tuesday, August 30, 2005

N.Y. shuts down illegal LiveStrong bracelet operation

Business Review:

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said his office shut down an illegal New York City operation that imported and sold counterfeit LiveStrong bracelets.

Spitzer said the defendants in the case pleaded guilty and turned over $111,830 to the Austin, Texas, Lance Armstrong Foundation, which benefits from the popular bracelets.

"This was a cynical scheme to profit from the public's strong support for the Lance Armstrong Foundation's work," Spitzer said.

"The sale of each counterfeit bracelet deprived the charity of money that could further its work in cancer treatment and research."

The attorney general's Office secured guilty pleas in the case after shutting down the counterfeiting ring in April when investigators from Spitzer's office and the New York state police raided two distribution operations in Queens and Manhattan.

During the raids, authorities seized more than 80,000 counterfeit bracelets and over $100,000 in cash.

"Stealing money from cancer survivors and their families is despicable. These arrests have stopped a criminal enterprise that, in reality, had multiple victims: the individual consumers who were defrauded, whose intentions to contribute to cancer survivors were thwarted; and a legitimate charity and its deserving beneficiaries," New York State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said.

Spitzer said the counterfeiting operation was run by Li Ping Liang Chen, who operated Eastlink International Inc., an import-export company, from her home in Queens.

Chen arranged to have the counterfeit LiveStrong bracelets produced in China, and imported into the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to law enforcement officials.

Undercover investigators working on the case purchased a box containing more than 1,000 counterfeit wristbands at a store in Manhattan operated by some of the defendants in this case.

According to U.S. Customs agents, the airbill number on this box of counterfeit bracelets established that it was imported by Eastlink International.

Founded in 1997, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is a charitable organization that finances cancer care and research programs.

The foundation sells distinctive bright yellow wristbands engraved with the term "LiveStrong" for $1 each. According to the foundation, its has sold more than 50 million of the ubiquitous little yellow wristbands worldwide -- that's almost 20 percent of the U.S. population and 1 percent of the world's.

Six plead guilty to selling fake Lance Armstrong wristbands for cancer



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