Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Fake Goods
It might be tempting, counterfeit designer items that look like the real deal at a fraction of the price, but buy them and you could be supporting dangerous crooks. Tonight, a 7 News exclusive an inside look at an operation authorities say is one of the biggest ever busted. Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- This warehouse in Lauderhill looks like any other except here customers are checked out through a peephole before they are let in, and when the merchandise goes out of the warehouse it goes out in big bags and even bigger boxes.
Diana Reed, 7 News Producer: "A lot of things were priced x amount for one. Buy more and it's cheaper."
7 News producer Diana Reed purchased these items for $80 at the warehouse. Sunglasses marked Coach, a purse marked Prada, a watch marked Rolex and a necklace and bracelet marked Tiffany.
Patrick Daoud, Daoud's Fine Jewelry: "This is just not the quality of what Tiffany does."
We took the jewelry to Patrick Daoud. His family has been in the jewelry business for more than 100 years.
Patrick Daoud: "It's not made by Tiffany. This is a counterfeit."
And when he looked at the Rolex, same answer.
Patrick Daoud: "This is obviously a fake. It's not even remotely close. Everything about it is just completely wrong."
As for the purse and sunglasses, the price speaks for the authenticity. Coach sunglasses can cost hundreds. Prada bags can cost thousands, we paid $25 for both, and inside the warehouse we saw lots and lots of merchandise.
Diana Reed: "You know, like this purse was displayed on a shelf on the wall, but there was also a bunch in a box still wrapped up in plastic."
Most of the customers we observed were women buying in bulk. Experts say operations like this often feed flea market sales and purse parties at private homes. As it turns out we weren't the only ones watching this business.
ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has agents working full time on counterfeit cases was also investigating, and that led to a search warrant with the Broward Sheriff's Office. The result, the seizure of more than two thousand items from the warehouse worth more than a million dollars on the street. It's one of the biggest counterfeit busts ever in South Florida.
The man accused of operating the business hid his face as he was taken to jail on counterfeiting charges, but 44-year-old David Zeuner of Clermont, Florida had to face the camera for his mug shot. He was later released on bond.
Anthony Mangione, ICE Special Agent in Charge: "It's a big problem, especially here in South Florida."
Anthony Mangione is ICE's special agent in charge. He says, buy counterfeit stuff and you help finance terrorism and organized crime.
Carmel Cafiero: "So we're talking the mob?"
Anthony Mangione: "You're talking Asian organized crime, Russian organized crime, Vietnamese organized crime, Italian organized crime, the traditional organized type crimes. Yeah, absolutely."
And he says counterfeiters often use children and forced laborers to make the items.
Anthony Mangione: "So, before your plunk down that $50 for a purse, you really need to think about all the different things you're affecting. Once you do that and how it all adds up and trickles up that chain."
Agents are now trying to find out who is supplying these fakes and how they are smuggled into the country.
Carmel Cafiero: "ICE will also be investigating the people who were buying here and what happened to all the merchandise they bought."
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