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Louis Vuitton Fakes Spark $15.9 Million Counterfeit Luxury Bust

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Memphis, working from information provided by the Gwinnett County Police Department in Georgia, seized two shipments of counterfeit luxury goods, including Louis Vuitton totes and purses worth $1.07 million if they had been real.

But that haul then led local investigators to a couple’s illegitimate counterfeit goods business and an inventory with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $15.9 million.

CBP officer in Memphis selected for examination the two shipments that arrived Sept. 28 en route from the Mexican state of Chihuahua to a residence in Lawrenceville, Ga. They found 59 Rolex watches of various styles, five Chanel sunglasses, two Versace sunglasses and one Louis Vuitton duffel bag, all of which were deemed counterfeit. The second shipment contained 20 Louis Vuitton tote bags. The items were turned over to Homeland Security Investigations, who continued their coordinated efforts with Gwinnett County.

“Counterfeit goods are poor quality products that cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year while robbing our country of jobs and tax revenues,” said Michael Neipert, Memphis area port director. “According to the arrested sellers, their customers knew they were buying counterfeits, which is maddening. Why would you want to walk around with a fake $18 Louis Vuitton tote, $1,522 cheaper than an original. That’s uncouth. It diminishes the original product.”

Louis Vuitton
Seized fake Rolexes, Chanel glasses and Louis Vuitton bags. Courtesy

An investigation on the sale of luxury goods bearing counterfeit trademarks was conducted with the assistance of the CBP and Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit. The led Gwinnett Police Department Special Investigation Section Vice Unit to seize over 9,000 counterfeit merchandise items valued at over $15.8 million from a business named Real Moda in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Nov. 18.

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As a result, Jessica Llama a 31-year-old female and Melvin Rene Jacinto Cortez, a 33-year-old male, both from Lawrenceville, were charged with possession and sale of goods bearing a counterfeit trademark. They are out on bond.

The three-month investigation led the officers to a vast number of counterfeit items and several items of evidentiary value. The items were stored in multiple locations, including Real Moda, and advertised for sale on Facebook, similar to how other culprits used social to peddle counterfeits. Luxury goods such as fake Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci handbags, Rolex watches, Chanel and Versace sunglasses were sold through the Menlo Park, Calif.-based platform.

CBP data indicates that handbags, wallets, apparel, footwear, watches, jewelry and consumer electronics are at higher risk of being counterfeited. Counterfeit watches and jewelry make up almost half of the total value of seized goods. Counterfeit versions of popular brands are regularly sold in online marketplaces and flea markets. CBP said counterfeit goods hurt the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety and fund criminal activity.