State drops case against Baldwin City man accused of selling counterfeit laundry soap

In this April 27, 2011 photo, Procter & Gamble's Tide detergent are displayed at a Target store in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Whatever soap Brian E. Glenn was selling, prosecutors said it didn’t stand up to the “stain removal performance test.”

In fact, prosecutors argued in court documents, when applied to barbecue sauce, Glenn’s laundry detergent fell 14.7 points short of authentic Tide detergent on the stain-removal index, when a mere 4 points is enough to be noticeable to consumers.

That’s just one bit of the evidence in the case against Glenn that won’t be shared with a Douglas County jury this week, as previously expected.

Just before the unusual case was scheduled to go to trial, the state moved to dismiss its October 2016 felony counterfeiting charge against the Baldwin City man, who was accused of selling bulk laundry detergent and falsely representing it as name-brand Tide detergent.

“The state seeks dismissal out of a necessity to attempt to conduct further testing related to samples obtained during investigation,” Steven Karrer, deputy attorney general with the Kansas Attorney General’s Fraud and Litigation Division, wrote in his motion, dated Thursday when the trial was to begin Monday morning. “This testing is necessary to proceed to trial on the current charges. It is unknown the amount of time necessary to conduct such testing.”

An AG spokeswoman said Wednesday that the office would not comment on the case. She declined to say what needed more testing or whether the state intends to refile the case later, a possibility because it was dismissed without prejudice.

Glenn’s attorney, Cooper Overstreet, said his client “made no representations that he was selling Tide soap” and pointed out that Tide parent company Procter & Gamble doesn’t have copyright on soap in general.

“We were confident that we would have been successful at trial,” Overstreet said. “His conduct was completely above-board.”

According to information presented by prosecutors in court documents:

An undercover agent from the AG’s office went to Glenn’s home in rural Baldwin City on April 29, 2016.

Outside, the agent saw a sign with Tide and Gain laundry detergent logos and the promise, “50 percent savings.” Inside, he asked about buying Tide and Glenn showed him his products — 5-gallon buckets stacked three-high on three sides of Glenn’s garage — and gave him a sample marked “TO,” which Glenn said stood for “Tide original.”

Glenn told the agent if he wanted to buy, it would be $35 for a 5-gallon bucket plus $5 for a pump.

When law enforcement agents and Procter & Gamble representatives raided Glenn’s home on May 3, they found large buckets labeled “Tide type laundry soap” in several varieties.

Glenn admitted to the agent that the soap was not Tide. He told the agent that when he sold it to people, he described it as “Tide like” or “Tide type.”

Had it been name-brand Tide, the detergent seized from Glenn’s home would have retailed for about $3,375, or about $75 per 5-gallon bucket.

Glenn told the agent he bought the detergent for $21 to $25. Then he sold it to individuals for $35 a bucket, or for $25 a bucket to people who purchased it “for further distribution.”

Glenn said he made sales by word of mouth, Facebook and occasionally at flea markets such as the Hooterville flea market in Osage County.

A Procter & Gamble senior engineer conducted tests on the soap’s color, “scent profile,” pH levels, water content, chemical makeup and presence of “perfume microcapsules that are present in authentic Tide with Febreze, which allow for a long-term release of freshness after the laundry process ends.”

The engineer then applied Glenn’s soap to “numerous stains including ketchup, chocolate sauce, coffee, barbeque sauce, and grape juice.”

Her conclusion: not authentic Tide.

But, Overstreet said, evidence does not show Glenn claimed it was.

The soap sales were a “big part of his livelihood,” he publicly advertised them without trying to hide anything and he distinguished his products from those of Procter & Gamble, Overstreet said.

“Testimony, as well as Mr. Glenn’s own statements and actions clearly show an individual not with mal-intent, but instead with an industrious entrepreneurial spirit,” Overstreet said in an earlier motion arguing the state lacked probable cause to put Glenn on trial. “The state’s over-broad interpretation of the statute attempts to criminalize otherwise perfectly legal conduct.”