Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sentenced a Seattle woman to 30 days in prison, 120 days of house arrest, 150 hours of community service, and a bill of $64,500 in restitution for selling counterfeit exercise equipment on eBay. The woman, Genevieve Rullan, pleaded guilty in June.
Her counterfeit item of choice was the Ab Circle Pro.
Rullan was taken down in an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In a December 2009 raid, HSI agents seized 210 counterfeit Ab Circle Pro devices from Rullan's home. HSI believes she sold "more than 1,000 counterfeit items on eBay" between 2008-2009.
According to her plea agreement, Rullan "knew the items were counterfeit, but nevertheless assured both eBay and her customers that they were not." A release from the Department of Justice's Western District of Washington office explains further: "When customers complained about the low quality of the item they purchased, Rullan continued to claim they were the genuine item. Those claims hurt the legitimate company."
Fitness Brands Inc.'s damaged reputation as the maker of Ab Circle Pro seemingly drove the investigation. Leigh Winchell, the head HSI agent in Seattle, predictably said, it was "not a victimless crime." She continued: it "robs legitimate businesses of millions of dollars in lost revenue and provides an unwitting public with sub-par [abdominals]."
Perhaps Rullan should have done more research into the quality of the Ab Circle Pro. According to a review on the website Weight Loss HQ, the machine is "really nothing special" and "there are going to be some people that will not benefit from [it] at all." 51 of the 113 reviewers on Amazon.com gave it just one star, leading to a poor 2.5 star average. Would she have been discovered if so many customers had not complained? Would so many customers have complained if she'd picked a better machine to counterfeit?
I don't know about you guys, but to me, my HOMELAND feels measurably safer and more secure now that these fake exercise machines and their wicked purveyor are off our streets and away from our internet. Norman Rockwell lives.