Monday, April 8, 2013

Fake Fake and Fake

If you have a counterfeit bag anywhere in your closet , put it away. Far far away, unless of course you want to end up getting arrested and going to jail.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin wants to make it a crime to buy sham Chanels, pirated Pradas, and any other counterfeit handbags found in Chinatown. The Manhattan Democrats bill would slap tourists and bargain hunters caught purchasing the designer fakes with a maximum $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

Chin as well as lower Manhattan residents are petitioning for a hearing on the measure saying that Canal street peddlers are spilling into side streets harassing anyone passing by. Chin told the New York Post that "People think it's an adventure. If you want to get these name-brand knock offs at a cheap price, you go to china town. It's always illegal for people to sell, but it's not illegal for the people who buy this stuff. Hopefully, this law will cut down on the demand."

Chin is also adamant that label lovers, aided by city guidebooks and tour buses are well aware that they are buying knock offs. “People are worried that some innocent middle-aged woman might unwittingly purchase a counterfeit bag,” she said. “If you go into a back room, basement or van, you probably know what you’re doing is not legal.”

Last month, the NYPD seized over 1,000 fake bags from an underground "shop" Chin said, bus as lawmakers seek to bring more heat and undercover cops crack down, black marketers continue to adjust their tactics.

Today, paranoid peddlers rarely lead tourists into stores through narrow hallways and into secret rooms where fake bags once lined the walls. Instead they are now making stealthy transactions on the street with the help of a network of lookouts. To get a knockoff bag a buyer must first stroll Canal street and find a scout with a low voice repeating "handbag, handbag, watches. watches" notes Kate Briquelet of the New York Post. "The scout leads buyers around the corner to a quieter street, where another member of the ring presents a pamphlet showing tiny color photos of more than 100 replicas. Buyers point to their selections, and the seller disappears before muttering the jacked-up price: $100 or more. Minutes later, he returns with the fakes concealed in black plastic bags, grabs his cash and walks away" says Kate Briquelet.

Dana Thomas, the author of "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster" says that "The counterfeit industry is very similar to the drug trade. It’s something that’s illegal, smuggled into the country and sold at an enormous profit. It’s not a victimless crime.”

Theres no exact estimate of how much revenue luxury brands lose to black-market handbags, but agents with US customs and Border Patrol seized over $511 million in fake handbags in 2012 alone. Out of that, $340 million worth of forgeries were gathered by New York agents in 458 seizures.

China accounted for 72% of US customs handbag busts last year. Several years ago, Thomas states that she witnessed police raid a factory in Guangzhou, were children workers were employed for a paltry $60 a month. Private investigators who work with police say that Chinese gangs are involved with every level of counterfeiting. “The guys tend to be the same folks who are involved in narcotics and human trafficking,” said Joseph Gioconda, whose law firm represents many luxury brands.

“To take counterfeiting seriously, you have to treat it the same way you would stolen property,” Gioconda said. “If you’re caught purchasing it, you’re punished. It’s the only way to put a real dent in the problem.”

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