Brand protection investigators from both Ford Motor Company and General Motors cooperated in the investigation. In March of 2017, a private investigative firm hired by Ford conducted an Ebay online purchase of rims and center caps from EZ Dealin for $1,978. Officials said the purchased items bore counterfeit Ford emblems, while GMC’s brand investigator reviewed and provided a list of 21 counterfeit Chevrolet and GMC parts then listed for sale by EZ Dealin on Ebay.
Financial analysis of subpoenaed PayPal information indicates that Benton conducted approximately $590,553.32 in transactions from April 12, 2017 until Aug. 8, 2017. There were 26 transfers of funds from the PayPal account number into Benton’s private bank account totaling $688,000 during that period. On Dec. 5, 2017, HSI and Thomas County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed search warrants at three locations associated with Benton and EZ Dealin, finding 5,782 parts bearing the registered trademarks of Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, Ford and Dodge.
“Criminal networks are working daily to fool the public with illegally imported counterfeit goods, some of which pose a grave threat to public safety,” said Nick Annan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta. “Anyone who may think counterfeiting is a victimless crime needs look no further than cases such as this. Persons rely on automotive parts, and when inferior counterfeit parts fail, the drivers who were exploited may be involved in accidents causing serious injury or death.
“HSI is appreciative of the U.S. Attorney’s partnership in this case and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute criminal counterfeiters who threaten public safety.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McCullers is prosecuting the case for the federal government.