SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — As part of an on-going criminal investigation into the alleged trafficking of counterfeit contact lenses, seven were arrested Wednesday for their involvement in the scheme.
U.S. ImmigrationÂ and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is leading the investigation, with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), the San Juan Police Department (SJPD) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health's Office of Investigations.
The five men and two women in the municipalities of Añasco, Guaynabo, Naranjito and Juncos.
"To people who think designer knockoffs are a harmless way to beat the system and get a great deal – buyer beware," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Part of what you're paying for when you buy established brands, regardless of the product, are quality control. As this case shows, when you purchase counterfeit decorative contact lenses, you can easily get something you hadn't bargained for, something that could put you at risk by damaging your eyes or even blind you. The illegal importation and sale of counterfeit goods is a significant problem that affects our economy, impacts American jobs and innovation, puts the public's health and safety at risk and at times threatens our national security."
On four separate indictments, Ezequiel Bayon-Santos, Katherine Agostini-Ruiz, Rafael Torres-Vicente and Eileen Martinez-Esteves were charged with trafficking counterfeit Freshlook Colorblends contact lenses. They face a collective forfeiture allegation of 226 boxes of counterfeit contact lenses. Wilma Soto-Diaz and her daughter, Karla Rodriguez-Soto, were charged with conspiracy and face a forfeiture allegation of 100 boxes of counterfeit contact lenses while Jose-Esteves-Cabrera, also charged with conspiracy faces a forfeiture allegation charge of 3,942 boxes of counterfeit contact lenses.
This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and our war fighters. HSI and CBP are coordinating with their IPR Center partners to ensure consumers are buying and receiving safe, legitimate products.
HSI encourages the public to report intellectual property rights violations and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by visiting www.ICE.gov/tips. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.