Selling Counterfeit Vera Bradley Bags Lands Former State Department Employee in Jail
It is safe to assume that all security clearances holders know they aren’t supposed to use their government computers for personal business, especially if that business entails selling counterfeit goods. Well, it seems a former Department of State (DoS) employee didn’t get the memo. Just last week the Department of Justice sentenced Gene Thompson Jr. to serve 18 months in prison for his role in trafficking counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags. His South Korean wife, Becky Zhang, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. Thompson was an Information Programs Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea at the time and held a security clearance.
It all started with Thompson using his DoS computer to create multiple online platforms advertising knock-off Vera Bradley bags as the real thing which were obtained by his wife. They used an associate located in Oregon to help store and ship orders. Vera Bradley investigators caught wind of the counterfeit trafficking operation and sent a cease and desist letter to Thompson’s contact in Oregon. Instead of complying with the order, Thompson and his wife created additional online accounts using multiple aliases and continued the fraudulent business. The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service got involved and gathered the evidence used by the Department of Justice to charge and convict Thompson and his wife.
The moral of this story? Clearance holders should not engage in selling counterfeit goods or use their government computer for personal business purposes. Presumptively, his security clearance would have been revoked by DoS under adjudicative guidelines for criminal conduct, financial considerations (affluence), personal conduct, use of IT systems, and outside activities.