Flea Market Knock-Off Bust Totals $30 Million

A recent flea market raid racked up more than $30 million in knock-off apparel and electronics, making it the largest counterfeit bust in Massachusetts, authorities said.

Authorities confiscated enough fake designer purses, clothing and pirated DVDs and CDs from two flea markets on May 10 to fill three tractor trailers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.

Local businesses told police in January that illegal items were being sold at the flea markets, which have been open for years, said Lawrence interim Police Chief James Fitzpatrick.

"We didn't expect it to be this wide-ranging," he said. "We expected a couple dozen vendors, but I think they were ramping up for Mother's Day."

Forty-two vendors were arrested. Each pleaded not guilty to state charges of selling counterfeit items and is due back in court in July. The markets' managers have not been charged.

Phony items labeled as brands including Michael Kors, Nike, Louis Vuitton and Ugg Australia were confiscated.

Selling fake goods puts a "strain on legitimate businesses" and the local economy, said Special Agent Bruce Foucart of the Department of Homeland Security, who was in charge of the operation.

Fitzpatrick called it the largest counterfeit bust in Massachusetts history, and Foucart said it was the largest one he had seen in New England.

"Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime," Foucart said. "People are losing revenue and jobs," he said. The items, many of which originated in China, will be destroyed, he said.

In 2013, the agency seized more than $1.7 billion worth of counterfeit goods nationwide.

Although buying fake designer items is tempting, Fitzpatrick urged consumers to resist.

"These items are unregulated. You don't know who is making them or where they come from," he said. "It could be some 8-year-old kid making little to nothing in some sweatshop."

This article was originally published on May 23, 2014.


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