Harnett Man Arrested on Charges of Selling and Possession of Fake Gibson Guitars

Steven F. Sexton, 48, of Lillington was charged Friday with two felony counts of criminal use of a counterfeit trademark, following an investigation by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Trademark Enforcement Section.

The investigation was initiated by a complaint to the Secretary of State’s Office from a victim who allegedly bought what appeared to be a “Les Paul” model Gibson brand electric guitar from Sexton.

Sexton allegedly advertised such guitars for sale in a regional newspaper. A Secretary of State Trademarks investigator found additional evidence of sales with guitars appearing to be Gibson Les Pauls, a famous line of electric guitar. The guitars were actually imported counterfeits of specific Les Paul models, complete with Gibson logos, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

One victim mentioned in the case, was a 15 year-old Cary teenager who found out his Les Paul model bought from Sexton was a fake when he became concerned with its poor quality and took it to a guitar shop, according to the Secretary of State report.

“This recent case highlights the risks to consumers when counterfeit products enter the North Carolina marketplace,” North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall said Wednesday. “In this case involving Gibson guitars, one young musician even had his dream of owning what was to him the perfect guitar, ruined by finding out what he had bought was a fake.”

A total of five counterfeit Les Paul Gibsons with cases were seized following a search of Sexton’s property, according to arrest records. In addition, two victims in the case also voluntarily turned in the guitars they had bought from Sexton in order to assist in the investigation.

“As we often say, selling counterfeit goods is a serious crime that robs legitimate manufacturers and merchants of business and brand identity. It costs governments in lost tax revenue. It opens the pipeline to criminal organizations seeking to ship merchandise into America, and in this particular case, it ruined some dreams of owning a fine musical instrument,” Marshall said.

The North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State has the statutory duty to enforce laws that protect the holders of state and federally registered trademarks.