WASHINGTON — Federal authorities said Thursday they made the largest counterfeit bust ever at a flea market late last month, netting 220,000 fake apparel, shoes, jewelry, handbags, cosmetics and other items with an estimated retail value of $47 million.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they executed a federal search warrant on April 22 at the Patapsco Flea Market in Baltimore, the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year investigation. Over the course of several days, authorities, with the help of some trademark holders, snagged tens of thousands of well-known fashion brands, including Louis Vuitton, Estée Lauder, Gucci, Coach, Kate Spade, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren Polo, Lacoste, The North Face, Chanel, Tiffany, Under Armour and Timberland.
Authorities said the multiday operation also netted the seizure of about $1.5 million in suspected criminal proceeds.
Industry trademark holders, including Under Armour and Estée Lauder, participated in the operation with ICE officials and local law enforcement. Blazer Investigations, which represents several brand names, was also on site assisting in the identification of the counterfeit goods.
“The illegal importation and sale of counterfeit goods is a significant problem that affects our economy, impacts American jobs and innovation, puts the public’s health and safety at risk, and at times threatens our national security,” said William Winter, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, in Baltimore. “Consumers should know that if they buy pirated and unlicensed products, they are hurting legitimate businesses and they may also be facilitating criminal activity.”
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