A Washington woman who pocketed more than $40,000 by selling fake luxury handbags will end up behind bars for her “robin hood mentality,” authorities said, though her crime pales in comparison to a $40 million bust last year.
Suneva Allen, aka Kara Suneva Mitchell, was sentenced by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to three months in prison and three months home confinement for trafficking counterfeit goods, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown announced on April 7. The 42-year-old Ferndale suspect pled guilty in October 2022.
“We cannot tolerate a robin hood mentality in the community,” U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said at the sentencing hearing. “Even though you thought you were helping other mothers afford luxury goods, you were actually helping them participate in criminal activity.”
According to records filed in the case, Allen operated a business titled “Keepin Up With Kara,” with Allen and her husband named as the company’s governors. As of last March, a website associated with the business advertised 467 items for sale that appeared to be genuine products made by brands such as Adidas, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Prada, Saint Laurent and Tiffany. The website was incorporated in June 2021 and dissolved on Feb. 14. All the items were priced substantially below the suggested retail price for their authentic counterparts. The website is still active, though no products are currently listed.
“Kara It’s [sic] so wonderful to deal with. Her bags are of exceptional quality,” read a review left by Nicole Vitelli on the website. “She ships pretty fast and I was not disappointed when I received all three of my bags. I would definitely recommend buying from her she is so friendly, responds quickly and if you have any issues whatsoever she definitely makes sure you are a satisfied customer.”
Another buyer, Nicole E., wrote that she purchased the “black cheetah logo LV bag” that was “so much better in person.”
Allen advertised “1:1 Quality Inspired Bags and Accessories” on at least one private Facebook group, where she posted images and videos of counterfeit merchandise as well as links to her website where people could purchase the counterfeits.
An investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office found that, in August and September 2021, three shipments destined for Allen and her company were seized from the mail in Oakland, Calif. The shipments originating from China and Hong Kong contained a variety of counterfeit goods, including handbags, wallets and jewelry. Allen was notified of these seizures but never petitioned to have the goods in the shipments released. An analysis of shipping records revealed that, between September 2021 and March 2022, approximately 46 shipments from China and Hong Kong were sent to Allen’s Ferndale warehouse, where she operated Keepin Up With Kara.
But an undercover agent made online purchases from her website—in one instance buying a Louis Vuitton-branded handbag for $110 to catch her in the act. The suggested retail price for the actual Louis Vuitton purse is $1,690. An LV representative confirmed that Allen’s version, which she was selling for less than 7 percent of its actual value, was indeed a counterfeit.
On May 2, 2022, law enforcement executed search and seizure warrants for her business, home and vehicle. They seized 1,800 suspected counterfeit items, including purses, scarves, belts, sunglasses and more. Between June 2021 and May 2022, Allen acquired, attempted to obtain, or sold more than 1,900 counterfeits with an estimated retail value of $185,842. Her profit over that period totaled about $43,430.
Allen was told more on at least one occasion that what she was doing was illegal.
“[Allen] received several letters from CBP and Louis Vuitton’s counsel putting her on notice that her business activities were unlawful,” Special Assistant United States Attorney Jessica M. Ly wrote in her sentencing memorandum. “It is an aggravating factor that, despite these numerous opportunities to cease…operations, Allen nonetheless persisted in obtaining and selling counterfeit merchandise, and even instructed an employee to describe the merchandise using coded language to avoid detection.”
In June 2022, a grand jury charged Allen with three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods or services. The first count is from December 2021 and references Louis Vuitton. The second count occurred in February 2022 and referenced an Hermès handbag, a Prada card wallet and a Gucci belt. The third count is from May 2022 and cites Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Ten trademarks were noted to be infringed.