By  on May 30, 2008

QUEENS, N.Y. — Federal officials raided a warehouse in the Ridgewood area of Queens Thursday morning, arresting eight people on counterfeiting charges and confiscating 1,113 boxes of fake goods.

The haul from the ZX Trading Corp. facility, which included apparel under the Tommy Hilfiger, Izod and Lacoste and Disney names and designer purses, filled two 40-foot container trucks.

Peter J. Smith, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent in charge of the New York City area, said the raid was part of a case that started in 2000 and included surveillance and undercover operations.

Officials will now analyze what was seized and see where it leads them. “They’re still going through it all,” said Smith, in an interview in his office overlooking the Hudson River. “We won’t complete this for a couple of days.”

He said the goods were destined to be sold in the New York City area and probably came from China. Information from the raid will be shared with U.S. government officials in China.

When ICE raided the warehouse they came knocking with arrest warrants for Yun Zhou Zhang, Jian Rong Jiang, Lin Hu, Jian Wang, Hoy Mui Cheow, Jian Hu, Ke Liang Qu, Yong Qiang Huang and Lin Kun Guan. Of those nine, eight were arrested. Three were released on bonds Thursday, one was held without bail and four more were expected to be arraigned today.

For the authorities, the path to Queens led through Lynchburg, Va. In 2005, the Campbell County sheriff’s department there seized $296,930 worth of counterfeit goods, including fake Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags that were found to be supplied by ZX, according to a complaint filed in the case.

That and other leads culminated in the raid. “You take a little piece of information and keep building on it,” said Smith. “You do your surveillances, you make your purchases, you get your seizures at the border, you run money through their bank accounts to see where it comes back to. A lot of leg work went back to this.”

Building cases on such suppliers is a more effective way of fighting counterfeiting than just cracking down on the street vendors, he said.

“You’re getting the biggest bang for your buck,” he said.

Still, that bang will likely only be heard in the immediate area.

Smith said the raid would have an impact locally for the time being, but that other counterfeiters are poised to move in. “There are people waiting to fill that vacuum,” he said.

According to the ICE’s Web site, trade groups and others estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy $200 billion to $250 billion a year and that 5 to 8 percent of all goods sold worldwide are counterfeit.

The raid revealed just a piece of the counterfeiting puzzle that has increasingly vexed the industry and law enforcement, lowered profits and drawn the attention of law enforcement.

ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized about $200 million worth of counterfeit or pirated goods last fiscal year, an increase of 27 percent. ZX is also in the midst of a legal battle with Marvel Entertainment Inc., owner of a bevy of crime-fighting superhero names including Spider-Man.

Marvel sued ZX in Brooklyn federal court in April, alleging the company manufactured, distributed and sold unauthorized goods that featured its popular web-slinging superhero and the Marvel name. “Defendants have infringed and threaten to further infringe the Marvel marks and copyright by manufacturing, distributing and selling unauthorized merchandise, including but not limited to toys, clothing and accessories,” said the complaint.

The suit included charges of trademark counterfeiting and infringement, false designations of origin, trademark dilution and injury to business reputation, among others.

Marvel asked the court to enjoin ZX from infringing on the firm’s marks and copyrights and to have the unauthorized goods and advertisements destroyed.

The company is also seeking unspecified damages.

An initial conference for the case is scheduled to be held before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in July.

There was no response to a call to ZX Thursday.

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