U.S. Investigators Seize Fake Luxury Goods Worth Half a Billion Dollars

Melvyn Teillol-Foo

Accused trafficked items that included fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume.

Press conference (photo from Homeland Security)

NEW YORK — 33 individuals were charged following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into a scheme to illegally bring into the United States millions of dollars of Chinese-manufactured goods by smuggling them through ports of entry on the East and West Coasts. One defendant is also charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization.

The charges include conspiracy to traffic, and trafficking, in counterfeit goods; conspiracy to smuggle, and smuggling, counterfeit goods into the United States; money laundering conspiracy; immigration fraud and unlawful procurement of naturalization. In addition, the government “restrained” nine genuine properties in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York belonging to the defendants.

“This investigation exposed the global nature of intellectual property crimes, allegedly being executed by those arrested today. Counterfeit goods manufactured and smuggled from China with a suggested value close to half a billion dollars, were intended to make its way into U.S. markets and into the hands of unsuspecting consumers,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “This investigation should be a crystal clear message that counterfeiting and intellectual property rights violations is anything but a victimless crime as it harms legitimate businesses, consumers and governments.”

What did they do?

The six year investigation since 2012 yielded enough counterfeit goods to fill 22 shipping containers. Twenty of the containers came in through the Port of New York and New Jersey, and two through the Port of Los Angeles.

Uncovering a scheme starting in China that filled warehouses in Queens and involved retailers in Illinois and California, officials from Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency confiscated half a billion dollars of street value “luxury goods”.

Container ships

The 33 defendants, all of Chinese heritage, played various roles in the trafficking of counterfeit goods made in China, brought by ocean-going ships to the United States in 40-foot shipping containers, smuggled through ports of entry disguised as legitimate imports and distributed throughout the country.

The counterfeit goods included items such as fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume.

Fake goods

Sweet Smell of Urine

The fake Chanel perfume particularly concerned investigators because previous schemes had involved using animal urine as one of the ingredients rather Chanel’s real formula!

Double Scheming Tactics

The first part of the scheme involved  defendants travelling to China to purloin generic items, which could be exported legally. A separate counterfeiting factory then produced knockoff logos and labels, which were smuggled into the United States and affixed to the goods.

Bargain hunters on Canal Street in New York (photo by seth wenig)

Then, importers represented themselves as employees of legitimate importing companies with email addresses and phone numbers. The fake goods were trucked to warehouses in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, and then wholesale distributors sold the goods to other distributors. Three retail businesses in Queens and two in Manhattan that were part of the scheme had closed.

Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)

Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.

Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).

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