As a holiday shopper in a tough economy, you may be tempted to cut corners and save money by purchasing counterfeit merchandise. If so, then Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers has a message for you: DON’T!
The organization is warning consumers about the dangers of buying counterfeit goods, such as DVDs, CDs, computers, designer purses, clothing, jewelry and other items.
They say consumers may not know that organized crime, including street gangs, are a major part of the counterfeit merchandise sales market because the profits can be higher than drug sales profits, and the penalties are much lighter than traditional crimes, such as drug dealing.
However, sales of fake “name brand” items have a huge economic impact statewide. The California State Board of Equalization estimates that fake designer clothes, computers, drugs and other items coming through California`s seaports drain about $8 billion each year in tax revenue from state coffers.
The illegal funds from sales of counterfeit goods are usually channeled through the “underground economy” of organized crime gangs to fund illegal human, drug and gun smuggling operations. Counterfeit products usually arrive through Southern California ports and are sold by vendors at flea markets, independent shops, swap meets and online.
Not only local street gangs are involved in counterfeiting and piracy. International terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda operating in several states, including California, have been linked to selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise to fund terrorism.
Over the past three years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Department`s Counterfeiting and Piracy Enforcement Team has seized approximately $320 million worth of knockoff designer products and arrested more than 200 suspected smugglers and counterfeiters.
“The bottom line is, if the deal you`re being offered seems too good to be true, then you`re probably buying a fake and hurting us all in the process,” said Sheriff’s Department Commander Todd Rogers, who also serves as an advisor to Crime Stoppers.
If you know someone, or see someone, involved in making or selling counterfeit goods, contact the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station at 661-948-8466 or the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station at 661-272-2400. If you prefer to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.