Crackdown on counterfeit imports in N.Y., Calif.
A massive investigation into the import of counterfeit luxury goods and improper import of authentic goods was revealed Tuesday as 29 defendants in New York, New Jersey and California were charged in three complaints with conspiracy to smuggle more than 950 shipments of merchandise into the United States.
Goods seized in some of the investigations included knockoffs of Nike sneakers, North Face jackets, True Religion jeans, Fendi handbags, and goods with tony labels like Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel.
Federal officials said that had the goods been authentic, they would have a value of $700 million — they did not specify a “street” value. Vendors selling fake goods can be found on many street corners in New York City, for example.
The U.S. Justice Department said the goods came principally from China through terminals in Newark, N.J.; New York Container Terminal in Staten Island, N.Y.; John F. Kennedy International Airport; Houston; and Long Beach, Calif.
The charges were the result of a 19-month coordinated initiative by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection. The Justice Department said investigative techniques included the use of cooperating witnesses, undercover agents, and video and audio surveillance.
“Counterfeiting has risen to the level of an economic pandemic costing the legitimate U.S. economy more than $200 billion annually. Targeting these illicit networks will remain one of the most important crimes we pursue,” said Julie Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE, in a statement announcing the arrests and indictments.
The Justice Department said forwarders in some cases provided fraudulent shipping documents to customs brokers to conceal that the goods were counterfeit or to avoid paying full duty for authentic items. Documents sometimes contained false information about the identity of the importers, frequently listing the name and identity of legitimate importers known to CBP.
Some forwarders were charged with filing false information in order to obtain “Permits to Transfer” shipments from port of entry to a Customs-bonded facility. In some cases, defendants failed to deliver the merchandise to the bonded facilities and actually transported it to their own warehouses or the customers’ warehouses.
On occasion, when CBP required an inspection, defendants would allegedly provide the inspectors with substitute merchandise in order to conceal the counterfeit nature or value of the merchandise and/or the fact that the goods had been delivered prior to clearance by CBP.
Other defendants were charged with money laundering.
For a press release with details of the three complaints see: