The U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C., charged Mark Dipadova and Theresa Gayle Ford for selling allegedly counterfeit versions of Rolex and Cartier watches and Montblanc pens through their Web site. The charges further allege that Dipadova and Ford made false statements about their business relationship to U.S. customs agents.
The Fakegifts.com site claims that it sells "replica" items of famous brands. The difference between selling replicas and counterfeit items may be a battle of semantics, according to Dean Eichelberger, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case.
A federal grand jury indicted the pair Jan. 17. They were arrested Jan. 22. The two pleaded not guilty during Tuesday's arraignment. No hearing date has been set.
If found guilty of willfully trafficking counterfeited trademarks, the defendants could face fines of $250,000 and imprisonment for five to 10 years for each count.
Eichelberger said this was the first time in his knowledge that an Internet operation was the target of a federal counterfeit violation case. But he added that the Internet in this case is just a means to an end.
"There's nothing unique about the Internet other than its being a mode to getting the product to the public," Eichelberger said. "The federal statute itself does not differentiate."
Langdon Long, the public defender representing Dipadova, did not return calls seeking comment by publication time. Ford has not yet chosen her attorney, according to a court clerk.