It all started with a few threads posted on guitar forums, including one on rickresource.com,
an outstanding forum and the place to go for
all things Rickenbacker. The thread dealt with
knockoff Rickenbacker guitars going by the
brand name of “Rockinbetter,” an obvious distortion of the Rickenbacker name. It also mentioned Rick’s president John Hall and his aggressive manner of going after those who steal or
appropriate his designs and trademarks.
Then the conversation turned to Chinese counterfeit Gibson guitars, and how they were coming into this country and fooling astute guitarists,
famous rock stars and guitar dealers who should
know better. I learned that counterfeit guitars
have regularly shown up on eBay, where people
have been—and continue to be—scammed out
of their hard-earned money, thinking they were
buying a real Les Paul, Stratocaster, Paul Reed
Smith, or other well-known instrument.
As I investigated the counterfeit guitar
racket, I began to notice ads on North Jersey
Craigslist for “Gibson copies made overseas,
$500.” I decided to call the seller. Here’s how
it went down, word for word, when I finally
got him on the phone.
“Hello, is this S****? I’m from Premier Guitar
Counterfeit Gibson guitars confiscated from Bernard Musumeci.
Photo: Michael E. Ach/Newsday
magazine and I called a few days ago and left
a message. I’m doing an article on counterfeit
guitars and wondered if I could ask you a few
“I think it’s ridiculous!”
“That you’re doing an article on these guitars.”
“I take it you don’t want to be interviewed?”
With that, S**** of Garwood, New Jersey,
slammed the phone down. Touchy, wasn’t he?
Perhaps it was because he knew full well that he
was selling an illegally bootlegged instrument. At
least S**** honestly referred to the instruments
as Asian replicas. He had that going in his favor.
According to Ric Olsen, Gibson’s Manager of
Brand Protection, “We know all about that guy.
We shut S**** down right after you spoke with
him. We have people scouring the Internet all
the time looking for guys like him.” Several days
later, S**** re-posted an ad for a fake Les Paul,
and again, Gibson managed to have it removed.
Where they come from
In March 2007, a North Carolina man, Steve
F. Sexton, was arrested and charged with two
felony counts of criminal use of a counterfeit
trademark, after selling fake Gibson guitars
to unsuspecting victims, including a 15-year-
old boy who had saved money to buy his first
Les Paul. Sexton plead guilty to two counts,
was sentenced to 45 days in jail, 18 months of
unsupervised probation, was fined $250 and
ordered to pay his victims $2,700 in restitution.
146 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009