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.”
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)