SPRINGFIELD, MO –GuildMaster Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court to importing thousands lamps with counterfeit UL safety certification labels from its subsidiary in China. Trafficking in goods with counterfeit marks is a felony offense.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, GuildMaster will forfeit the 5,585 lamps seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, valued at approximately $1,8 million. The company also will be placed on a five-year probation.
Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, made the announcement on July 15. Founded in 1981, GuildMaster is a manufacturer and importer of residential furniture, including armoires, cabinets and tables, as well as lighting, accessories and wall art. The Springfield, MO-based company owns and operates manufacturing facilities in Indonesia and China.
“This prosecution sends the important message that companies importing goods from overseas may not gain a competitive advantage over those that play by the rules, by cutting corners when it comes to safety or intellectual property rights,” Dickinson said in a statement.
Ten shipments of lamps originating from Dongguan, China, were seized between Jan. 10 and March 21, 2012 by customs agents. The Department of Justice said a search of GuildMaster's Missouri office also was conducted. In all, 5,018 lamps were found bearing the counterfeit “Portable Luminaire” labels with UL marks; another 567 lamps seized had genuine but unauthorized “Portable Luminaire” labels bearing the UL Mark.
GuildMaster claimed it did not inspect the lamps manufactured by its Chinese subsidiary and therefore did not see the counterfeit and unauthorized UL labels.
Although it "maintains that none of its agents or employees had personal knowledge that they violated U.S. laws by importing the lamps," GuildMaster President Stephen Crowder said the company takes responsibility for the actions of Westway, its wholly-owned subsidiary, and those of MeiHao Times Trading Co. Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Westway, and the Dongguan Yangming Hardware Crafts Ltd lamp factory.
According to documents, Westway knew back in December 2009 that Dongguan factory was not UL-certified.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven M. Mohlhenrich and Cynthia J. Hyde. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
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