NEW YORK — Counterfeit handbags and apparel have long been hot buttons in the news — now fragrance is poised to join the ranks.

Six foreign nationals were arrested late Tuesday in what is being billed as the first criminal counterfeit case involving fragrances in Manhattan, said sources close to the investigation. And it's unlikely to be the last, said a source, adding the arrests are expected to be the first in a series of criminal seizures of fraudulent fragrances.

New York police officers on Tuesday raided Price Right Perfume and Watches, located at 1205 Broadway, which was stocked with hundreds of bottles of fragrance bearing the names of leading scent brands, including Armani, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Kenneth Cole, Liz Claiborne and Davidoff. More than 600 bottles of fragrance, with a total retail value of $36,000, were identified as counterfeit and immediately seized, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Two members of L'Oréal's corporate security staff were on site to identify fraudulent fragrances. Both declined comment.

Another source estimated the store's total inventory — much of which will need to undergo testing by the respective companies involved — had a value of close to $3 million at retail. The source added that more than $100,000 in cash was also seized.

Each of the six men arrested was charged with trademark counterfeiting, a police spokesman said. The names of the suspects and their ages had not been released as of press time.

Officers from the Midtown South precinct, who made the arrests, declined comment at the scene.

Martin Ficke, former special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Department of Homeland Security, and chief of operations for SES Resources International, a consulting firm, noted that most arrests of this type involve civil litigation, but this particular case could be tried first as a criminal matter, then as a civil issue.

Ficke is working with the Fragrance Foundation, a number of leading fragrance companies and the NYPD to provide assistance in anticounterfeiting matters, he said. "We're doing this because the government doesn't have the resources to do this themselves," he said, another reason most cases of this type end up being tried civilly rather than criminally. Criminal prosecutions require a higher standard of evidence than civil prosecutions. "So we work with them to help build a case, working with former cops and agents who know how to conduct an investigation and how to work within the rules of evidence."

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