WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials, in conjunction with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, conducted a bust of counterfeit merchandise on Friday at area flea markets, snagging $3 million worth of bogus products and arresting 11 people.
This story first appeared in the October 19, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Federal officials and law enforcement authorities seized 18,640 items, including bogus purses, wallets, perfume, watches, hats, shoes, shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, pants, music and movies from four vehicles at 16 locations within the D.C. Farmers Market.
Authorities arrested 11 people on state criminal charges for trademark counterfeiting. One of the alleged suspects is Saidou Zongo, 41, who resides in Silver Spring, Md., and has an outstanding INTERPOL notice from the Burkina Faso government for misappropriated funds.
Authorities served seven search warrants and conducted 13 plain view searches of the flea market, according to ICE. In addition to the merchandise, officials seized two cargo vans and one 2011 Dodge Charger, allegedly used to traffic the counterfeit goods.
“The trade in counterfeit goods robs Americans of jobs and costs legitimate businesses billions of dollars in revenue. This crime is often tied to other types of criminal activities in our area,” said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Washington. “ICE HSI investigations focus on the traffickers and criminal organizations behind this illicit activity.”
Among the seized counterfeit apparel and footwear brands were Nike, Timberland, Prada, Gucci, The North Face, True Religion, Louis Vuitton, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Coach, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Chanel, Armani, Valentino, Tory Burch, Dooney & Bourke, Fendi, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Versace, Marc Jacobs, G-Star Raw, Ed Hardy and Calvin Klein.
ICE officials said the flea market had been identified in the past as openly selling counterfeit products. Agents conducted surveillance and made undercover purchases at the site. Industry representatives helped verify the items were counterfeit. After being processed as evidence, the bogus goods will be destroyed.