Style + Beauty

published : 2023-11-16

$1B in fake designer goods seized in largest bust in US history

The raid took place in Manhattan where around 219K counterfeit bags, clothes, shoes and other luxury products were confiscated

A photo of the confiscated counterfeit bags, clothes, and shoes, taken with a Nikon D850.

Federal authorities and the NYPD have seized thousands of knock-off designer handbags and shoes with a street value of just over $1 billion, making it the largest bust in U.S. history, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Wednesday.

The massive raid took place inside a storage facility in Manhattan, New York, where around 219,000 counterfeit bags, clothes, shoes and other luxury products were confiscated.

Authorities said that the total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the fake goods tops $1.03 billion, although the street value of such counterfeit goods is typically much lower than the MSRP.

Photos released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office show shelves and a floor area jammed full of faux designer bags counterfeiting various brands, while another area is completely brimming with more bags as some clothes hang from pipes.

In another photo, a storage area can be seen full of dozens of unopened boxes on pallets.

An overhead shot capturing the shelves and floor area filled with faux designer bags counterfeiting various brands, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

"The seizures announced today consist of merchandise with over a billion dollars in estimated retail value, the largest-ever seizure of counterfeit goods in U.S. history," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations.

Two men, Adama Sow, 38, of Queens, and Abdulai Jalloh, 48, of Manhattan, were arrested in relation to the bust on Wednesday and have been charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods, according to an unsealed indictment. They face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Authorities said the duo used the storage facility as a distribution center for the massive amounts of knock-off designer goods.

Sow and Jalloh ran a large-scale counterfeit goods trafficking operation out of the storage facility from January 2023 through Oct. 20, according to the allegations contained in the indictment and other publicly available information.

They also allegedly trafficked counterfeit goods out of an offsite location in Manhattan, authorities said.

A close-up image of unopened boxes on pallets in the storage area, showcasing the scale of the counterfeit goods, taken with a Sony Alpha a7R III.

"The trafficking of counterfeit goods is anything but a victimless crime because it harms legitimate businesses, governments, and consumers," NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said.

"Today’s indictments show how seriously the NYPD and our federal partners take this offense, and we will continue to work hard to hold accountable anyone who seeks to benefit by selling such items on the black market."

Ivan Arvelo, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, echoed those sentiments and said consumers should be aware of the implications of buying such items, particularly ahead of the holiday season.

"One purse might seem harmless, but the production and sale of imitation products is far from a victimless crime," Arvelo said. "We will not allow opportunists to convert public warehouses into their own illegal shopping centers, or to wreak havoc on the streets of New York City."