Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas woman gets 38 months in prison in counterfeit electronics case

TAMPA — Stephanie McCloskey is a single mother living in Clearwater who once worked at a fast-food restaurant and quit high school before getting a GED.

But McCloskey helped commit what federal prosecutors call one of the most significant schemes they have ever investigated involving the sale of counterfeit computer components to the U.S. military, defense contractors and high-tech industry.

McCloskey, 39, was sentenced Tuesday to 38 months in prison by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for helping sell counterfeit integrated circuits as manager of VisionTech Components, a Clearwater electronics company.

The case is the first-ever federal prosecution for trafficking in counterfeit integrated circuits, the U.S. Department of Justice says.

The devices were intended for use in everything from U.S. military planes, warships and missile systems to high-speed trains.

The parts endangered national security and could have led to loss of life, prosecutors said.

"McCloskey did her part to set a ticking time bomb of incalculable damage and harm to the U.S. military, U.S. service men and women, the government, all of the industries to which VisionTech sold goods and to consumers," federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memo to the judge.

"She has effectively helped to release a poison into the veins of interstate and international commerce," the memo said.

Integrated circuits control the flow of electricity in the systems in which they are incorporated. They are found in a vast range of electronics, from smart phones to the space shuttle.

For three years ending in 2009, VisionTech advertised trademarked micro-electronics on a company website, some of which were marked as "military grade," prosecutors said. In fact, the government said, the company obtained almost all of the counterfeits from China.

The scheme grossed $15.8 million, prosecutors say.

McCloskey routinely dealt with customers and knowingly defrauded them with her assurances that the circuits were legitimate.

The government said it knows of no instance in which a failure of the integrated circuits caused serious harm. But thousands of the devices are still in circulation and are impossible to track down, prosecutors told the court.

VisionTech sold hundreds of thousands of the circuits to more than 1,000 customers.

McCloskey, who pleaded guilty in November, cooperated with authorities in a case against their main target, VisionTech's owner, Shannon L. Wren.

But Wren, who was arrested in September 2010, died of an accidental drug overdose at his Clearwater home while awaiting trial.

Wren had previously been in drug rehab, court records show. In January, prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his pretrial release after he was caught using a homemade "prosthetic penis" to provide a clean urine sample.

But he died before a hearing to decide if he should be jailed pending trial.

Wren, a former drag racer, also owned Reborn Couture, a South Tampa retail store frequented by professional athletes.

Some contractors who unwittingly bought the counterfeits said they lost government business because of the scheme. The owner of one company, Pacific IC Source in California, told prosecutors that they were very distressed at the thought that someone could possibly have died because of counterfeit components.

Reach William R. Levesque at or (813) 226-3432.

Pinellas woman gets 38 months in prison in counterfeit electronics case 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays' Blake Snell erasing memories of his poor start

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — As Blake Snell strides up the mound at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night with an 10-game unbeaten streak, doesn't the miserable start to his sophomore season, when he was winless in eight starts and got demoted to Triple-A, seem like a long time ago?

    To him, too.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) in the dugout during the fourth inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  2. St. Petersburg youth baseball concession stand vandalized

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — The early-morning phone call warned Charles Castle, president of Burg Baseball, to "expect the worst.'' The organization's concession stand had been vandalized.

     Cliff Williams, Vice President of the Burg Baseball Inc., St. Petersburg, looks at a damaged and trashed concession stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex, home of the Burg Baseball. According to Williams someone vandalized the concession stand either Saturday or Sunday. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  3. Tampa charter school teacher charged with firing handgun at ground


    TAMPA — A Tampa charter school teacher was arrested Sunday after she fired a gun into the ground during a dispute with her boyfriend, police said.

    Melody Patrice Bing, a teacher at the Village of Excellence Academy in Tampa, emerged from her home holding a weapon and dropped it when police confronted her at gunpoint. [Tampa Police Department]
  4. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg


    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.
  5. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO


    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]