These Aren't the Real Thing

 The feds released details Tuesday on the biggest ever West Coast bust of counterfeit goods.

They said owners of eight stores in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf are at the center of a counterfeit ring that lead to a newly unsealed 24 count indictment.

Investigators say the suspects sold everything from fake Gucci and Prada to Dooney and Bourke and Oakley.  Right now, it is not illegal to purchase the fake goods, even though it is a crime to sell them. 

The designer fakes were illegally imported from China.  They include clothing, handbags, jewelry, scarves, sunglasses and shoes. They had labels of dozens of well-known designers.  They say the biggest fake designer draw is a lady's handbag.

The goods are worth approximately $100 million, which is the value based on what the items would have sold for had they been legitimate.

Investigators have been working this case for nearly two years in coordination with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, and Homeland Security.

Experts say the problem with counterfeit goods has mushroomed in recent years and they say that is because of the lowering of trade barriers.

ICE Director John Morton and U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello and the Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in San Francisco, Richard Vigna had a show and tell of sorts Tuesday so they could display of the loot. 

They said fake designer wear is far from a victimless crime. 

"To consumers who think designer knockoffs are a harmless way to beat the system and get a great deal, 'buyer beware,'" said ICE Director John Morton.  "Trademark infringement and intellectual property crime not only cost this country much needed jobs and business revenues, but the illegal importation of substandard products can also pose a serious threat to consumers' health and safety."

The indictment was filed in federal court on July 22 and unsealed late Monday. It includes charges of conspiracy, smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

If convicted, the defendants could face prison terms of up to 20 years.

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