MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — CBS2 was given rare access Monday to a joint operation between Nassau County police and the Department of Homeland security, targeting counterfeit items at retail shops.
The raid all Monday morning targeted merchants who were peddling faux goods right out in the open.
Plainclothes Nassau police and federal Homeland Security officers got their orders before fanning across the county on a six-location sting. The counterfeit goods industry is exploding and has gone mainstream.
CBS2’s Gusoff was told to don a bulletproof vest. Gusoff and the police units then headed out in an unmarked convoy, because anything could happen – even when only counterfeit handbags are the cause for arrest.
Counterfeit goods are a multibillion-dollar black market. They are no longer hidden in back rooms on Canal Street but are now sold out in the open — with little shame or secrecy.
The first stop was affluent Hewlett Harbor. A mother at home with her family got an unexpected wake up call for a mother from officers.
Police found a handbag boutique in the living room.
Police said they smelled marijuana and found hallucinogenic drugs.
Fern Ciraolo, 53, was arrested on counterfeiting allegations. Her 21-year-old son, Justin Ciraolo was also placed in cuffs on drug charges.
The next spot was the Ego Trip shop inside the high-end Cheveux Day Spa and Salon in the center of the shopping district in Woodmere. The retail shelves were filled with knockoff Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Valentino handbags.
Boutique owner Alyssa Reichel, 49, was busted for the second time. allegedly feeding the demand for pricey designer looks at bargain prices.
Status symbols also lined the walls of a Hemsptead store – lookalike Uggs, Northface, and Louis Vuitton.
In the heart of Westbury, shelves were stocked for holiday shopping with knockoff sunglasses, watches, and cologne. Elsa Bonilla, 31, was arrested on charges of displaying the counterfeit merchandise at ELSY Salon.
Also arrested was Jack Huzarsky, 74, of Syosset, who is accused of displaying counterfeit designer merchandise in his 2015 Chevrolet Equinox in the rear parking lot of 421 Glen Cove Rd. in East Hills.
The one-day take was close to $250,000 in fakes. In total, around $1.2 million in fakes were seized.
“We will not accept it,” said Nassau County police Detective Sgt. Patrick Ryder. “You know, we have to go out and we have to enforce these laws, but there’s so much coming from across the borders, it’s impossible to stop it.”
Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said customers should think twice about where their money is going.
“It’s something that should be taken seriously. You know, people think, oh, the companies can afford it – and that’s not the only problem here,” Krumpter said. “The problem is a lot of times, this money sometimes goes back into terrorism and goes back into other criminal enterprises, and worst of all, children are being victimized thru the world.
“These are not legitimate businesses,” Krumpter said later. “They’re selling out of the trunks of cars, that’s why we look to seize the assets of these individuals — they’re not paying their taxes.”
Those arrested on Monday face counterfeiting charges, and police can seize anything they believe was bought with illegal proceed.
Police noted that cars, businesses, and even homes can be lost to the not-so-fabulous fakes.
To make sure you’re buying a real product, make sure you do your research and shop from a reputible store, Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Sgt. Patrick Ryder told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
“You could also Google a bunch of the items online to tell what you need to look for to see if it is the real product, or the counterfeit product,” Ryder said.
Experts said the merchandise mainly comes from China and often avoid detection because the logos are attached at the time of purchase.