State Department Employee and Spouse Plead Guilty for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy

EUGENE, Ore.—A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. The guilty pleas took place before United States District Judge Michael J. McShane. Both defendants will be sentenced on March 18, 2021.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colon of the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), made the announcement.

According to the plea agreements, Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 54, was employed by the U.S. Department of State as an Information Programs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea, a position that required Thompson Jr. to maintain a security clearance. Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 40, is married to Thompson Jr. and resided with him in Seoul.

Between September 2017 and December 2019, the two conspired to sell counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags from e-commerce accounts to persons throughout the United States. Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms. Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring counterfeit merchandise to be stored in Oregon. Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.   

The case was investigated by the DSS Office of Special Investigations with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon.

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