On February 15, 2011, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release stating that an ICE probe led to the arrest of the owner of a Bakersfield, California retailer, “Girlfriends by Design” for trafficking in counterfeit goods. ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) department has been investigating trafficking allegations against the shop and its owner, Eric Huggins, after receiving a lead that the shop was selling counterfeit merchandise sometime in late 2009. In December, 2009, an ICE HSI agent posing as a customer bought several counterfeit items from the store. During the purchase, the agent asked Huggins about a bin of purses, which Huggins told the agent he could “put any logo” on, specifically naming the Prada and Gucci brands.
In March, 2010, ICE HSI agents executed search warrants at “Girlfriends by Design,” as well as at Higgin’s home, resulting in the seizure of $140,000 worth (determined by the retail value of equivalent genuine goods) of counterfeit luxury and sports apparel and accessories. The ICE press release states that Huggins then continued to sell counterfeit goods including pro sports (NBA and NFL) jerseys from the back of his van in the parking lots of several Bakersfield businesses.
There’s some good photos of the counterfeit merchandise on Bakersfieldnow.com, along with this broadcast news story:
I think it is interesting that the reporter in the news clip above stated that Huggin’s case is especially egregious because he was a business person. This implies that Huggin’s actions would have been less illegal or immoral had he only been selling counterfeits from his car and not from a storefront. I suppose the volume of sales, hence the total negative impact, would be less were Huggin’s selling only from his car, but the negative consequences are the same regardless of where the sales occurred.
Fortunately, the stiff penalties associated with trafficking — a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison and a $2 million fine — should be enough to dissuade most folks from engaging in such activity. Huggin’s case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. The Complaint may be seen here in PDF format.
Counterfeiting is Bad. It deprives brand owners of the goodwill and business they earned. Even worse though are the negative social justice impacts of counterfeiting. These include unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor, and other humans rights violations. Purchasing counterfeit products supports these injustices. Please don’t buy fakes!