It is the big attraction for many visitors to New York City's Chinatown. Crowds of women stream into tiny stores along New York’s Canal St. in Chinatown on the hunt for the same the same thing: copies of trendy and expensive designer bags and other goods by Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton and Coach. Chinese women accosted passersby with black plastic bags full of look-alikes.
Federal investigators have traced the proceeds from the Chinatown counterfeits to a dangerous underground economy -- an economy thriving on sales to purse party dealers from America's nicest neighborhoods. WE have all been invited to the parties that seem inviting and innocent on the invitations.
The reality is that these parties may be supporting organized crime. They are also hurting the economy.
In the past, federal prosecutors have indicted members of New York's crime families for a number of racketeering offenses, including trafficking in counterfeit handbags.Even more frightening was evidence developed by the FBI's joint terrorism task force that the sale of counterfeit goods financed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The U.S. Customs Service continues to warn that counterfeit designer bags may finance terror.
How do you know if you're buying the real thing?
- If you can peel off the label, it's a fake.
- The real thing will have a tag indicating where it was made.
- Real designer handbags are sold at either company stores or major department stores, not at home parties or on the street.
- Is it made out of leather or plastic?
- Do the seems match- is it well sewn?
Selling counterfeit handbags is a federal crime. If they're caught, the self-styled purse-pushers could face federal time. It's a crime. People can go to jail for Buying the fake bags isn't illegal, but selling them is. Trafficking in counterfeit goods even if you tell the buyer they're fake, is illegal.
Federal prosecutors said penalties range from $2 million in fines to 10 years in prison.
The popularity of suburban purse parties is well-known to the participants. The purse party organizers usually know it's illegal. They send e-mails, pass fliers, discreetly distribute business cards offering Fifth Avenue labels at Chinatown prices and free handbags to women willing to host their own in-home parties. It's also big business.
However, manufacturers and distributors are criminally liable for trafficking knock-off purses. Those who host popular purse parties are considered to be sellers of counterfeit products and are similarly liable for their involvement in these activities.
Manufacturers and distributors of knock off handbags can be prosecuted under state and federal law for violating trademark and copyright laws. The sentence for counterfeit crimes varies widely depending on the quantity and the value of the goods. Many upscale manufacturers also warn that the factories where counterfeit items are produced may partake in questionable treatment of their employees. Before you purchase a replica, ask yourself if you would like to fund this kind of activity.
Victims of Counterfeit Activity
If you believe that someone is illegally selling counterfeit knock-offs of your product, consult an attorney. An experienced trademark or copyright attorney can help you bring a civil lawsuit for money damages against the person who is counterfeiting your product. An attorney can also advise you whether to call the police, who will then forward your case to the District Attorney's office to prosecute the alleged counterfeiter if there is sufficient evidence.