Counterfeit raid on South Street

SOUTH STREET - October 2, 2009 Investigators say they were selling counterfeit merchandise that would have been worth about a half million dollars if it were the real thing.

Police handcuffed and hauled off the store owners. They are all charged with forgery, trademark counterfeiting, operating fraudulent businesses and conspiracy.

Police say they were selling knockoffs of famous designer brands like Louis Vitton, Coach, and Chanel. They've seen it before on street corners, but never in full blown stores on busy shopping streets.

"This is a new phenomenon for Philadelphia; it's just not corner locations or flea market, where we normally see it, these are full-fledged retail stores," private investigator Stuart Drobney said.

The designers hire private eyes like Stu to make undercover buys. If the goods aren't legitimate, they call in the police.

Philadelphia Police also brought along L & I agents who inspected the buildings and shut them down for various code violations. Investigators confiscated the counterfeit stuff. It was being sold for just a fraction of what the real thing costs.

"I'm sure there's people that go into these stores, things that cost hundreds of dollars, you're buying it for mere pennies on the dollar, I'm sure they're aware that it's probably a knockoff. Then there's legitimate people who probably believe they're purchasing a legitimate item, and in fact, it is a counterfeit, so, in essence, they're being defrauded," Captain Mark Everett of the Philadelphia Police said.

Many of the stores' customers Action News spoke to consider it a victimless crime, but nonetheless, it is a crime. The man who was sold the bags now faces serious jail time.

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