Colleton County bust highlights fake label issue
Two players in the vast pipeline of fake goods that flow into the United States from China are sitting in the Colleton County jail, according to federal investigators.
Qian Yun Hu, 63, and son Minguo Hu, 36, both of New York City, are charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods and conspiracy after a deputy stopped them heading to Miami with a carload of merchandise.
Their cache included counterfeit Gucci, Ray Ban and Louis Vuitton sunglasses, watches and purses, according to investigators. If the stuff were real and sold at retail, it would be worth about $500,000. One of them told agents they planned to sell it at a flea market for a fraction of the cost.
The sale of fake goods bearing famous brand names is common in major cities across the country, and it’s drawing more attention from manufacturers tired of losing sales, law-enforcement agencies trying to fight it, and even local officials looking for ways to discourage tourists from buying the stuff.
Here’s what happened in Colleton County, according to an affidavit from an agent with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement in Charleston.
About 9:30 a.m. on May 31, a Colleton County deputy noticed a gray Toyota van with New York license plates cross the center line near Walterboro while heading south on I-95. He pulled the van over.
Minguo Hu was driving. It turned out he didn’t have a driver’s license, and he also was charged with that offense, according to Colleton County jail records.
Minguo turned out to be the talkative one. He told deputies they planned to sell their faux goods at a flea market in Miami. At this point, deputies took the pair to the sheriff’s office and called in federal agents.
Minguo told an agent he came into New York from Singapor shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, by paying $20,000 for a fake passport.
He said his father had bought the merchandise from a guy on a street corner in New York a couple days earlier.
The complaint lists the fakes as three pairs of Dre Beat headphones, 100 Michael Kors wallets, 70 Louis Vitton purses, 60 pairs of Gucci sunglasses, 36 pairs of Michael Kors sunglasses, 84 pairs of Ray Ban sunglasses, 36 pairs of Prada sunglasses, 115 Gucci watches with diamonds, two Gucci watches without diamonds, 59 Michael Kors watches with diamonds, 106 Michel Kors watches without diamonds, two Gucci cellphone covers, a Michael Kors cellphone cover and 20 Chinese DVDs.
Qian Yun Hu has been in trouble before, according to the affidavit. He was arrested by Boston police on charges of selling counterfeit DVDs about 10 years ago.
He was under federal investigation again after agents said he received fake Timberland logos and a container of work boots that look like Timberlands from China.
He was arrested in Miami in February after police said he was selling counterfeit Beat headphones and sunglasses at Bargain Town in Homestead, Fla., according to the affidavit.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement created a department called Homeland Security Investigations, which created a National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to tackle counterfeit goods.
New York City Council is considering making it a crime to buy the stuff, a move that has drawn some objections from tourists, according to The Associated Press. The punishment would be $1,000 or up to a year in prison.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.