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Police net counterfeit goods in downtown sweep

November 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's always great to find a good deal on designer fashions. But when that deal seems just too good to be true, it probably is. Police raided the notorious Santee Alley Wednesday.Vendors are stocked for the holidays with all the cutest stuff and the trendy names.

These items, though, won't make it into your shopping bag. These are knock-offs, and the dealers are busted. Sheriff's deputies have been working undercover to conduct similar sweeps over the last several months.

"It was involving multi jurisdictions including agencies from out of state, and it was targeting counterfeiters in and around the Los Angeles area," said L.A. County Sheriff's Sergeant Janice Munson.

Investigators are keeping a lid on what they uncovered. Sheriff Lee Baca plans to reveal the findings of the operation Thursday. Expect details of a network more elaborate than any found before.

Deputies displayed some of the loot they found Wednesday: "Labels such as Coach, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana," said LAPD Officer Matthew Shafer.

Some of the hottest items are jewelry. Designer names include Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Coach.

"What they will try and do is something called an 'infringement.' Not necessarily counterfeit. They'll just put the logo on here, and they'll think, 'Since I didn't write Bebe Fat on it, it's not counterfeit.' Well, Bebe Fat has trademarked this cat. That of course is a counterfeit," said Shafer.

Counterfeit sellers are becoming more savvy, keeping their fakes hidden.

"They put a Lakers T-shirt [on top of a pile], but if you keep flipping -- Bam -- Tommy Hilfiger," said Shafer.

There is also evidence the vendors are making some fakes themselves.

"The companies who are losing out on billions of dollars, especially in the time of this recession that we have, every dollar counts," said Shafer.

The underground business steals from the public too. The dealers work in cash and they don't pay taxes.

It's so lucrative, the counterfeit business is expanding: Toothpaste, batteries and Viagra were carted off along with Louis Vuitton.


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