WASHINGTON -- More than $1 million of counterfeit Louis Vuitton, Gucci and MCM products are slated to go up in smoke in Chicago today, incinerated at the hands of the U.S. Customs Service.
"That sounds like something we can be happy about," said Anna Levin, vice president, general counsel of Louis Vuitton NA, New York.
The 393 boxes of purses, wallets, handbags, portfolios and carry-on bags constituted the largest cache of counterfeit imports ever discovered in Chicago, said Richard Roster, Customs' Chicago district director.
The goods were found by a Customs inspector in 1988, hidden in the hollow tops of a shipment of tables imported from South Korea, Roster said.
For the last five years the seized goods have been stored in a warehouse as the local office of the U.S. Attorney weighed how to handle the case, eventually deciding not to prosecute, Roster said.
"Nobody was arrested and nobody was charged," said Bill Thomas, assistant special agent in charge in the Chicago Customs office.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney said she could not comment on specific cases. But, she said, in order to bring any case to court, "we would have to be able to prove that a federal crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt."
The merchandise was imported by a vendor from Chicago's south side, according to an agency statement.
The incineration originally was scheduled for Tuesday, but "there was so much press coverage we couldn't get it done," Roster said. Customs staged a photo opportunity Tuesday of inspectors taking a routine last look at the seized goods.
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