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12.30.2008

president pardons merchant who sold fake watches

Among the individuals on President George W. Bush's clemency list: 66-year-old James Won Hee Kang, who was pardoned last week and had his name cleared after being arrested for selling cheap knock-off watches in Chicago nearly 25 years ago: Maxwell Street merchant pardoned man for selling 'toy' Rolexes in 1984.

Kang, who arrived in the United States as a student in 1974, was running a stand at the Maxwell Street Market when an undercover Chicago police officer stopped by in October 1984 and purchased some fake Rolex and Omega watches. He was charged in U.S. District Court with one count trafficking in counterfeit goods, and sentenced to a year's probation.

He pleaded guilty and paid a $5,000 fine, and records show he was released from probation in good standing just a month later. Kang thought that would be the end of it. But future background checks turned up the old charge, making it difficult for his otherwise honest professional life. All this trouble over some knockoff watches.

Kang applied for the pardon in 2002, in order to clear his name and his record. Six years later, it looks like he got a pretty nice Christmas gift from the President.