athletic polos Buyers Snap Up Fakes Police Crack Down On Bogus Goods Sales
This is a question more and more consumers have answered by scooping up counterfeit products from South Florida flea markets, swap shops, street corners and private apartments turned bogus boutiques.
And as long as consumers dont care that the items are fake, this illegal market will continue to thrive.
Just ask the police. Or designer investigators and attorneys. Ask flea market owners or the dealers who are hawking this phony stuff.
This counterfeiting business is a big deal.
This fake business is big. Real big. You go to New York and they are selling the stuff in the subway. And you can get it in Florida, too, said Edina Frankel, owner of the Delray Indoor Flea Market. People like seeing the name Chanel or Louis Vuitton on their stuff. Its a status symbol.
Area police work closely with design company representatives to make undercover purchases. In the past two years, the Palm Beach County sheriffs department has made a dozen arrests and seized about $4 million in merchandise, Detective Dean Johnson said. Broward County figures were unavailable. A supervisor of the sheriffs organized crime unit was unavailable for comment.
The vendors are charged with counterfeiting a trademark, a misdemeanor subject to a maximum 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Just last week, the police arrested a vendor at the Delray Swap Shop and confiscated 277 fake Chanel items, including handbags, sunglasses, scarves, belts, key chains, watches and earrings.
Police officials and attorneys representing the designers say many of the items are made in the Orient and distributed from Miami and New York. They are sold openly in some outlets while more savvy dealers have created an underground market requiring customer referrals of new clients.
A handbag vendor at the Festival Flea Market in Pompano Beach said he was arrested for selling fake Louis Vuitton items last year. The merchant, who asked not to be identified, said he stopped, to stay out of trouble.
I would pay $65 to $75 for a bag then turn around and sell it for $110. People are willing to buy that stuff, knowing its fake,
because the prices on the real stuff are ridiculous.
Kenny Sawh, owner of Kennys Designer Handbags Inc., said people come to his store looking for the fake stuff. He points to a sign plastered to a front shelf. It reads: NO FAKE HANDBAGS SOLD HERE.
I cant be bothered with that kind of nonsense. It is not worth it, said Sawh whose shop is in the Festival Flea Market.
Designers say the the fake products are inferior in quality and take advantage of established reputations.
These items deceive the public and dilute the trademark, said Gary Stiphany, a Coral Gables attorney whose clients include Chanel Inc., Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., Donna Karan and Guess? Inc.
Some flea market owners, the targets of police raids, said they, too, were joining the fight against the illicit sales. They were not allowing the fake items to be sold there, and in some cases were threatening eviction.
Frankel, owner of the Delray Indoor Flea Market, said she warned the 180 vendors to take any illegal business elsewhere.
I dont believe in infringing on patents. I had one in here and I put them out of here, she said.
In April 1992, nine merchants were arrested at the Festival Flea Market. More than 2,000 items were seized.
After the arrests, flea market owner Daniel Shooster sent letters to each of the 650 vendors warning they would be thrown out if caught selling fake products. He also instructed security guards to watch for counterfeit items.
For Sherice Cotter of Fort Lauderdale, the counterfeit market is her only shot at owning a so called designer purse.
I bought this purse at a flea market in Miami a couple years ago, she said while clutching the Louis Vuitton knock off. I bought it because I liked it. Period.
REAL OR FAKE?
As designer items become more popular,
so do the counterfeit versions. Here are a few tips to determine whether the product is authentic or fake: