WASHINGTON — Federal officials said Friday they had broken up a multimillion-dollar counterfeit ring with ties in Baltimore, New York, London, Malaysia and China.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement charged nine defendants with smuggling more than 630,000 counterfeit Gucci, Coach, Cartier and Nike items such as shoes, handbags and watches worth an estimated $33 million into the U.S. through the Port of Baltimore.
In a related case, authorities in London said Friday they had arrested six individuals and seized 50,000 counterfeit Gucci, Ugg, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Nike and Adidas items at 30 locations in the greater London area in what they said was one of the largest counterfeit busts in U.K. history.
“Criminal organizations that smuggle and sell counterfeit goods in the United States endanger our economy and rob legitimate industries of their business,” said John Morton, assistant secretary with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, said, “Intellectual property crimes are among the Justice Department’s top white-collar enforcement priorities.”
The indictment includes 72 counts of conspiracy, smuggling, trafficking in counterfeit goods and money laundering. The defendants began conspiring in March 2008, according to court documents.
The U.S. defendants face maximum five-year sentences for conspiracy, up to 20 years in prison on each of the 33 smuggling charges, up to 10 years for each count of trafficking in counterfeit goods and a maximum of 20 years on five money laundering counts, in addition to monetary fines in the millions of dollars. Two of the defendants were arrested on Wednesday, six were arrested Thursday and one suspect is at large.
The conspirators allegedly imported goods manufactured in Malaysia and China into the U.S., according to the indictment. To get the goods cleared through Customs for sale in the U.S., the defendants made contact with individuals who, unknown to them, were undercover ICE agents.
The undercover ICE agents documented 33 occasions between May 2008 and December 2009 when the members of the smuggling ring allegedly directed shipments of counterfeit goods through the Port of Baltimore. Goods were either transferred to locations in New York and New Jersey or they were picked up in Maryland.
The London investigation was a result of cooperation between City of London Police, the U.K. Border Agency and ICE. It is ongoing. ICE said it had tracked the movement of shipping containers that were used to smuggle counterfeit goods from China to the U.S. and U.K., which lead to the arrests in both cities. One of the defendants charged in Baltimore allegedly arranged to have money wired to undercover agents for three containers that were to be shipped to England. The same defendant also allegedly met with undercover agents in England to discuss expansion of the counterfeit smuggling operation.
“Nike is grateful for the diligence and hard work that the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have demonstrated throughout this investigation,” said Lori Colbert, North America brand protection manager for Nike Inc. “Their commitment to ending the flow of counterfeit goods across borders has been unwavering.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye