LEE COUNTY, Fla.- What appears to be a victimless crime, may not be. The discounts you think you're getting could be funding a lavish criminal lifestyle.
"He has been conducting or perpetrating this fraud for several years," said Jan Kostka, U.S. Postal Inspector.
Investigators said a suspect in their latest case was selling pirated copies of the multimedia Adobe software on Ebay.
"The subject was selling the counterfeit software on Ebay for approximately a 20-25% of the actual retail price," said Kostka.
Here's how it worked. Postal inspectors began tracking the suspect after thousands of complaints came into Adobe's anti-piracy group. They went undercover, setting up internet profiles on Ebay to buy the bogus software and test it for authenticity. They quickly realized the suspect was making a fortune.
"Went from a virtually zero in July of 2005. It spiked up in January 2006 to approximately $45,000 of sales per month and its able to provide a lavish lifestyle," said Kostka.
Including luxury cars, a high-end Mercedes, BMW and Pontiac GTO and that's not all.
"We seized approxmiately $144,000 in cash. We seized numerous counterfeit boxes of counterfeit software. We seized a high speed CD duplicator," said Kostka.
What they found most troubling about this case,
"The ease with which my suspect was able to take somebody else's brilliance and hard work and turn it into easy profits for himself and an undeserving lifestyle. Also the length of time that he was able to get away with it," said Kostka.
The bottom line, you can unwittingly be helping to steal someone's ideas or work. Don't be afraid to ask for verification that things are real. There are a lot of great deals on legitimate products out there as well.