SINGAPORE: A woman who imported cheap counterfeits of branded bags and apparel from her home country and sold them for a mark-up on Facebook Live was sentenced to four months' jail on Tuesday (Oct 5).
Vietnamese national Le Thi Thu Lang, 33, pleaded guilty to five counts under the Trade Marks Act of possessing goods with falsely applied trade marks for sale. Another 15 similar charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that Le started out selling counterfeit apparel on Carousell in May 2019. She switched to hawking the fake goods on Facebook Live two months later, procuring the counterfeit items from suppliers based in Vietnam.
She bought the items for S$3 to S$10 each and sold them for up to double the price. Viewers on her Facebook Live page would watch as she showcased her fake goods - including bags from brands like Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton as well as home-grown brand Charles and Keith.
Interested buyers would leave comments on her page and Le would contact them to process their orders, which they paid for via PayNow or PayLah.
On average, Le earned about S$200 per Facebook Live session.
In December 2020, authorities received information from Singapore Customs that they had detained a shipment of bags suspected to be counterfeit.
Officers raided Le's flat two days later and arrested her. About 520 pieces of fake branded goods were seized from Le's home, including 69 pieces of Louis Vuitton clothes, nine pairs of Versace footwear, 13 Balenciaga bags and 96 pieces of Gucci clothes.
BRAND TRADE MARK ADMINISTRATORS INSPECT FAKE GOODS
Some of the seized goods were inspected by trade mark administrators for the respective brands. Gucci's administrator found that the items had "non-standard" and "inferior" materials or craftsmanship, while Adidas' administrator found that the fake goods were "the lowest grade counterfeits".
The administrators for Chanel and Louis Vuitton similarly found the counterfeit goods to be of poor quality and did not meet their brands' standards.
The prosecutor sought four to six months' jail for Le, citing the need for deterrence as strong intellectual property protection is "an integral part of Singapore's economic and industrial success".
Speaking through an interpreter, Le said she was "very sorry" and that she had "poor knowledge of Singapore law".
ASKED IF SHE COULD PAY A FINE INSTEAD
When she heard that she was sentenced to jail, she asked the judge if she could pay a fine instead, saying she had a family to take care of, especially her 80-year-old mother-in-law.
Le's husband, who was in court, also sought mercy from the judge.
"Yes, I admit my wife has been ignorant," he said. "I also admit it's my fault, because I don't really take care of the family."
He added that his wife was helping him care for his mother, who had a heart bypass, and that his father had just passed away and his family is "a mess".
He pleaded for leniency again regarding the jail term, but the judge told him she had already decided on the sentence. She allowed Le to defer her jail term to Oct 19 to settle her family and work matters.
For each charge of possessing a fake branded item for sale, Le could have been jailed up to five years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.