A Missouri couple’s foray into selling counterfeit Disney DVDs online doesn’t have quite the fairy tale ending they might have hoped: both will be serving time behind bars.
Tabitha Nicole Rodgers, 43, and her husband, Clint Travis Rodgers, 49, were sentenced to prison on Wednesday after admitting that they knowingly imported hundreds of fake Disney DVDs from Hong Kong and sold them in the U.S., the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Tabitha Rodgers, who had pleaded guilty in October 2021 to one count of criminal copyright infringement for a profit, was sent away for four years without parole. Clint Rodgers, who played a smaller role in the criminal venture and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal copyright infringement, will serve just one year.
According to prosecutors, the scheme dates back to 2011, when the couple first “knowingly and intentionally conspired” to obtain counterfeit Disney DVDs and sell them for a profit on eBay. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) got involved in 2014 after the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPRCC) alerted HSI to the fact that Clint Rodgers had received more than 443 shipments of fake DVDs from companies in Hong Kong known to sell and export counterfeit goods.
“One shipment contained 200 counterfeit ‘Beauty and the Beast’ DVDs and another shipment contained 260 counterfeit ‘Aladdin’ DVDs,” a press release from the Justice Department said.
Undercover agents bought “several counterfeit Disney DVDs from the Rodgers on eBay” in February and March of 2015, the press release said, noting that at the time of purchase, “[t]he Rodgers represented that the DVDs were genuine and authentic Disney products, when in reality, they were aware the products were counterfeit.”
In August 2015, HSI agents searched the Rodgers’ home, seizing “an assortment of counterfeit goods, including numerous counterfeit Disney DVDs.”
Tabitha Rodgers apparently told federal agents that she was the brains behind the scheme.
“Tabitha Rodgers admitted that she conducted the day-to-day operation of the business,” the DOJ’s press release said. “She corresponded via email with the counterfeit DVD supplier in Hong Kong and placed orders for the DVDs. She also packaged and sent the DVDs to customers and processed customer complaints when DVDs were inoperable.”
Her husband “assisted by helping recruit third parties to use their eBay accounts to sell the DVDs for them,” according to the DOJ.
According to her plea agreement, Tabitha Rodgers enlisted the help of her brother, Joshua Robinson, in selling the fake DVDs. Robinson apparently realized that the products his sister was selling were counterfeit “within a year of becoming involved” after being alerted by an email from eBay, which he said he forwarded to his sister. He received hundreds of complaints of faulty DVDs and “eventually turned over control of his eBay account to Tabitha Rodgers,” the plea agreement says.
Prosecutors say that Tabitha Rodgers’ criminal activity didn’t stop with the DVDs.
“Although they derived substantial income from selling counterfeit goods, Tabitha Rodgers sought and obtained SNAP benefits from the government to which she was not entitled,” prosecutors said in the press release. “Her fraudulent conduct in obtaining benefits was considered by the court in determining an appropriate sentence and in ordering restitution.”
U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark, a Barack Obama appointee, ordered Tabitha Rodgers to pay more than $26,500 in restitution to the government for the SNAP benefits. Clint Rodgers was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 27 months for Tabitha Rodgers, who faced a statutory maximum of five years, and one year for Clint Rodgers. Both defendants had requested sentences of probation only.
Representatives for eBay and Disney did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
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