NEW YORK — Law enforcement officials said last week that a nine-month undercover investigation into the sales of fake Tiffany jewelry and accessories led to the arrests of three alleged counterfeiters and the seizure of merchandise valued at well over $2.6 million.
In raids last Thursday at three stores in and around Canal Street, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working in conjunction with the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, seized 6,900 pieces of counterfeit Tiffany jewelry, including knockoffs of some of the jewelry retailer’s best-known jewelry designs and even the company’s famed tiny blue box packaging.
Nadine Renee Vargas and Yaniv Shamir, the proprietors of Starglam.com, a Web site based in Staten Island that sold the counterfeit items bought from Canal Street, were arrested and arraigned last Tuesday. Chee-Soon Tai, the owner and operator of Enndi Silver, at 251 Canal Street in lower Manhattan, was arrested and arraigned on Thursday. He was found with 4,168 pieces, valued at $979,480. Two other storefronts in the Canal Street area were also raided.
All were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copywrite infringement. The maximum penalty is five years imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000, according to Michael Asaro, an assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York.
The FBI last September received a complaint regarding the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit Tiffany jewelry through the Web site, Starglam.com. In December, FBI agents searched the Staten Island business of Vargas and Shamir and found roughly 600 pieces of sterling silver jewelry and boxes of shopping bags bearing the Tiffany logo, valued at roughly $90,000.
Vargas said she would typically purchase 10 to 20 jewelry pieces from Enndi Silver, paying roughly $2,000 to $3,000 for the jewelry. In January, an undercover FBI agent went to the Canal Street store and purchased a counterfeit sterling silver chain, which was on display for roughly $22. The authentic piece of jewelry sells in the retail market for approximately $195.
Last Thursday, officials found an additional 6,900 pieces spread among three stores. Tiffany representatives have estimated the retail value for authentic merchandise would be about $1.6 million.
This story first appeared in the April 21, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.