Looking for that last minute holiday gift that won't max out your credit card? The $50 “Rolex” in the window or that “Louis Vuitton” handbag – just 30 bucks -- calling to you from a peddler off Canal Street may be tempting.
While it’s illegal in New York to sell those counterfeit luxury goods found all over the city, there is no law preventing you, the buyer, from snagging a bargain that’s too good to be true.
Except, perhaps, a moral compass that spans from Chinatown to China. When you buy a knockoff luxury brand you are supporting the theft of intellectual property, a form of slave labor, and multi billion-dollar international crime syndicates, experts told Metro.
“There is a huge demand for these goods,” said Brian Brokate, a lawyer at Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty in New York, who represents Rolex in counterfeiting cases.
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To the untrained eye they look like the real thing, but that’s where the comparison ends. Whether it’s a high-end watch or designer handbag, perfume or clothing, it’s made of cheap materials that won’t hold up over time, Brokate warned.
How to tell the counterfeits from the real thing? Don’t be naïve; if it’s selling in a storefront or on a table on the street, it’s a fake, experts said. A typical knock-off Rolex might sell for less than $50; the real thing, a new 2014 model, has a list price well above $10,000.
The fakes come predominantly from Chinese factories, smuggled to the United States then distributed to major cities and local vendors. They are so ubiquitous that tour bus companies including stops at the "sales" on Canal Street.
In fact, many of the fakes are made in factories where child ten work in horrible conditions to meet quotas on illicit goods. Sometimes, workers are chained to their chairs to meet their daily workload, Brokate said. And part of the demand is from within China, where residents want the cut-rate items for themselves.
The NYPD's Peddlers Task Force works with city’s Organized Crime Investigative Division to combat the sellers and those who rent space to them. Earlier this month, cops and federal agents stormed several Queens’ businesses, charging seven people with trademark counterfeiting. Authorities seized more than $2.2 million worth of fake designer handbags, gloves, wallets, and watches. The items bore the trademarks of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Prada, among others, police said.