“Operation Fashion Faux Pas”: Orange County Vendors Dealing Counterfeit, The Feds As Fashion Police . . . and Do The Feds, Like The Devil, Wear Prada?
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has filed state criminal charges against three vendors identified during Operation Fashion Faux Pas. This humorously-named operation is a crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on retailers suspected of dealing in counterfeit designer goods in Orange County, CA.
This now brings the total of Orange County vendors charged to seven, all as a result of Operation Fashion Faux Pas. More than $820,000 worth of counterfeit designer goods has been seized (an estimated dollar amount based on what the product would retail for, if it had been genuine).
The three defendants – Gokhan Kucuk, John Giang Ly, Joon Heung Son – are charged in criminal complaints filed last week with multiple counts of the alleged manufacture and sale of a counterfeit mark. Items seized included phony handbags, wallets, sunglasses, cosmetics, jewelry, and shoes bearing the counterfeit marks of such designer brands as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry and Hermes.
Special Agent Claude Arnold (HSI – Los Angeles) noted: “People wrongly assume intellectual property theft is a victimless crime and there’s no harm in buying counterfeit goods. Vendors who sell counterfeit merchandise are robbing from legitimate companies, many of them U.S.-based. They’re hurting the men and women who depend on those companies for their livelihood.”
So . . . if one is wondering Why designer goods are so expensive, some of that high-end pricing reflects directly back to largely overseas international counterfeiting rings which turn out knock offs (counterfeit designer ware) at staggering rates.
In truth, this newest Orange County bust only reveals the smallest tip of the iceberg – of multiple international criminal enterprises with mega-billions at stake globally. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, product counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses alone $200-250 billion a year in lost revenue. (And perhaps only $2 billion has been recovered so far since 2012.) While current numbers aren’t readily available, Europe and Canada have suffered huge losses as well.
What’s not mentioned by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is that the Orange County Seven may not have had a choice. They were possibly forced to sell designer knock offs. Frequently in the past, defendants facing similar arrests, seizures and charges have related stories sharing a common thread: Coercion, extortion and the very real threat of physical violence to families and friends in their own native countries (by shadowy overseas criminal organizations). In short . . sell the knock offs here in the U.S. or else.
Ironically – or maybe not – these arrests and seizures coincide with World Intellectual Property Day (April 26). Encouraging innovation and creativity, it recognizes the importance of intellectual property. World Intellectual Property Day commemorates April 26, 1970, the day the World Intellectual Property Organization Convention first came into being, and it has been observed ever since.
— Stephen Heath-Jones