E.J. Silverbrooke & Co., a wholesale imported jewelry store, sits in the corner of a blue-gray office building on Vandiver Drive.
Tim Meyers: devoutly religious and a loyal family man
The store’s owner, a former minister named Tim Meyers, is described by family members and former employees as devoutly religious and a loyal family man who named his business after his three children: Evan, Joel and Emilie Brooke. Those who know Meyers say he’s not the kind of man who would knowingly commit a crime.
“I’ve never once known him to do anything wrong,” said Virginia Howard, who managed a specialty gift store Meyers once owned. “He’s always been so sincere — a very religious person.”
Arrested and charged with two counts of counterfeiting
But to the Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos, a group that works to protect and enforce trademark rights, Meyers is a seasoned knock-off dealer. Acting on a tip from CAPS, Columbia police searched E.J. Silverbrooke & Co. on Feb. 9 and found 700 pounds of unlicensed Italian bracelet charms, said Columbia Police Sgt. Stephen Monticelli, who led the Meyers investigation. Meyers was arrested and charged with two counts of counterfeiting, a Class C felony.
Lisa Uriguen, a CAPS administrator, said catching up to Meyers, who is free on $15,000 bond, was a matter of luck.
“Most of the time, if they know we’re on to them, they definitely go further underground,” she said. “They’re making a lot of money, and they know what they’re doing is against the law.”
Italian-style charms are a fashion trend that has taken off the past few years. Marketed and sold as a more modern take on old-fashioned charm bracelets, they are considered “Italian” most likely because they were first sold by an Italian jewelry brand, Nomination, said Gary Robinson of Gary B. Robinson Jewelers Inc., 1608 Chapel Hill Road. Higher-end charms sell for $17 each, he said.
The demand for pop culture images on the charms has spawned unlicensed versions, Uriguen said. As a wholesaler, E.J. Silverbrooke & Co. sold charms to other retailers. Uriguen said Meyers sold charms displaying a variety of trademarks, including those of many major sports teams and Disney and Warner Brothers images.
Tracing unlicensed products
CAPS had been monitoring Meyers’ sales of Italian bracelet charms for about a year, Uriguen said. The group tries to trace the sales of unlicensed products from retailers “up the chain” to the main supplier. Consumers, retailers and companies that own trademarks are all sources of information about sales of unlicensed products. An informant kept the organization abreast of E.J. Silverbrooke & Co.’s sale of the charms and, last fall, CAPS sent a warning letter to Meyer, Uriguen said.
Although knock-off items are common, it’s rare that Columbia police handle a case involving dealers who sell fake trademark goods, Monticelli said. Police usually don’t learn about the retail sale of counterfeit products unless an organization like CAPS clues them in, he said. In the Meyers case, Monticelli said, there was sufficient reason to believe that the dealer knew he was selling unlicensed goods.
The charms sold by Meyers were likely manufactured in Hong Kong or China, Monticelli said, and were purchased at about 25 cents each. Police estimated that, based on a retail price of about $3.50 each, the charms found in Meyers’ shop are worth at least $1.5 million. Under Missouri law, selling counterfeited intellectual property is considered a felony if the total retail value exceeds more than $10,000.
Contacted by phone at home, Meyers’ son, Ethan, said his father did not want to comment on the charges against him. A cousin, Robert Meyers, said Tim Meyers and his wife moved to Missouri from Elizabeth, N.J., about 20 years ago, after he left his work as an evangelist minister and became interested in import dealing.