A now-unsealed federal complaint has outlined how authorities caught out an international counterfeiting ring responsible for attempting to ship $472 million worth (if legit) of fake Nikes and Louis Vuitton into the US.
It has been reported that the counterfeiting crew used slightly altered versions of actual company names to make paperwork look legit. Once cargo cleared US customs, the 40-foot containers never ended up at the addresses listed on the manifests which falsely stated that the shipments contained everyday items like ventilation fans. Instead, they were sent to self-storage facilities in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island in New York, where the fakes were then broken down into smaller quantities to be sold.
An unidentified defendant who pleaded guilty to federal counterfeiting charges provided the first leads to the perpetrators, providing information to agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence. Named in court filings as ‘CD’ (cooperating defendant), this person gave HSI a phone number for someone called ‘Ray’, investigators checked the number against a government database and found it matched one submitted on a 2017 US tourist visa application submitted by a Chinese national named Qingfu Zeng, eventually leading to the fakes being seized by customs.
It has been predicted that worldwide sales of knockoff goods exceeded $520 billion in 2019, representing 3.3 per cent of all global trade.
Read more about the elaborate plot to catch the counterfeiters here.