- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2019

A State Department employee is accused of using his embassy computer in South Korea to sell counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags to customers in the United States, according to an indictment unsealed late Wednesday.

Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 54, and his wife Guojiao “Becky” Zhang were arrested Wednesday, the Justice Department said.

The couple is charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of selling counterfeit goods.

“Defendants and their co-conspirators unjustly enriched themselves by fraudulently selling handbags and other goods bearing counterfeit Vera Bradley trademarks and purporting to be manufactured by Vera Bradley,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

Prosecutors said Mr. Thompson facilitated the scheme from his computer while working inside a secure facility designed to protect sensitive and classified information.

Mr. Thompson created online accounts on websites including eBay, Poshmark and Mercari to sell the counterfeit bags using his State Department computer, according to the indictment. He also gave the login and password credentials to his wife, prosecutors said.

The couple worked with an alleged accomplice who stored and shipped the goods from a home in Oregon, according to court documents. Prosecutors did not identify the accomplice and it is not known whether that person will face criminal charges.

Once a sale was made, Ms. Zhang transmitted the information and a shipping label to the Oregon co-conspirator, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the couple ran the scheme from September 2017 through this December.

In April 2018, Vera Bradley discovered the operation and sent a cease-and-desist letter asking the couple to stop selling the fake bags, according to the indictment. Upon receiving the letter, Mr. Thompson told the alleged Oregon accomplice to “stop all shipment,” the indictment said.

“Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you,” Mr. Thompson wrote in an email, prosecutors said.

But instead of stopping, prosecutors said they continued the operation using different aliases.

The Diplomatic Security Service Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service assisted with the probe.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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