Federal homeland security agents seized a large haul of counterfeit luxury handbags, wallets and belts smuggled through ports in the New York-city area and Los Angeles, officials said Thursday.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations announced charges in New York City against 33 people in a scheme involving fake goods it estimated had a potential value of nearly a half billion dollars if passed off as genuine. It said the seized items included fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume.
"The defendants allegedly smuggled millions of dollars of counterfeit luxury goods into our country, depriving companies of their valuable and hard-earned intellectual property," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement.
The majority of items from China were smuggled in 20 shipping containers through the Port of New York and New Jersey, authorities said. Another pair of the 40-foot containers came in at the Port of Los Angeles.
Authorities said some of the defendants forged the information of legitimate importers on paperwork as part of the scheme. Court papers said they arranged to truck the goods to self-storage facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island where they were unloaded and stored before being distributed to wholesale and retail sellers in New York, California and elsewhere in the United States.
Authorities also said they seized personal property from the defendants in the New York area valued at about $12 million.