Ex-US embassy man jailed for fake Vera Bradley scam

A former worker in the US State Department and his wife have been jailed after pleading guilty to trafficking counterfeit goods.

Gene Leroy Thompson Jr. (54) and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang (40) were arrested in 2019 for their role in the conspiracy to traffic fake Vera Bradley handbags from the US embassy in Seoul, South Korea, and admitted the offences in December 2020.

Thompson has now been sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release, while Zhang received three years of supervised release, the first eight months of which will be in the form of home confinement. They were also ordered to forfeit a combined total of almost $230,000, equivalent to the gross amount they made from counterfeit sales.

Thompson was employed as an information programmes officer at the embassy, and is used his work PC to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms – including eBay, Poshmark and Mercari – from within a secure space designed to protect classified information.

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Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring the counterfeit merchandise. Action was taken after Vera Bradley sent a cease-and-desist letter to an accomplice in Oregon who stored and shipped the goods in April 2018.

The sale of fake foods took place between September 2017 and December 2019, according to a Department of Justice statement.

Thomson retired from the state department with full benefits, according to an report on the sentencing.

Formed in the early 1980s, Vera Bradley is a US luggage and handbag design company headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It has been fighting counterfeiters who sell replica bags. And in 2018 teamed up with Amazon to pursue legal action against third-party sellers importing and selling fakes on the online retail platform.

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