Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fake Cuban Cigars (Part 3)

Those trying to recover from the cigar renaissance took drastic steps to sell off their inferior products. "Well, what happened was the cigar bubble burst. So, unable to sell their junk, they said — ooh, let's just rip off the other brands," explains the veteran lawyer for Altadis USA to the Miami New Times.

Altadis USA, the US subsidiary which sells legal imitation Cuban cigars made in the Dominican Republic, initiated an ironic hunt for Cuban cigar counterfeits (illegal imitations) in South Florida in 2005. Located in Fort Lauderdale, they argued that Cuban counterfeits cost them "the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars" every year. Altadis may be right about this, but according to the counterfeit busts that they helped with in 2005, they only recovered about $100,000 worth of fake cigar boxes in South Florida. Chump change when compared to "hundreds of millions of
dollars." In fact, Altadis USA may be overzealous in their "aggressive campaign" that netted Juan Penton when Canada alone has a "black market [of Cuban cigars] that cost $52 million a year in lost taxes alone" according to Abel Ortego, head of Havana House, exclusive importer and distributor of Cuban cigars for Canada.

But, unfortunately for Penton, Altadis SA has legal rights to famous Cuban cigar trademarks that Penton was copying. And, in 2005 he was busted along with seven other alleged counterfeiters in raids throughout South Florida. A year later, Penton got a fancy electronic bracelet, a five-year probation, and a $7,500 fine for selling fake Cuban cigars. He was found guilty of only selling $3000 worth. On their website, Altadis USA threatens other counterfeiters of proceeding "against the offender aggressively through civil and/or criminal channels." Altadis USA originally wanted to send Penton to prison for five years(!), a punishment that the judge fortunately rejected.

"Altadis is Fidel," declares Penton.

[Part 4]

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