Chinatown stores raided for counterfeit goods

December 8, 2009 3:42:06 PM PST
A strip of stalls selling counterfeit goods in Chinatown were raided Tuesday morning, shutting down the notorious shops just in time for the holiday shopping season. Police say 10 buildings, housing about 30 stalls, were raided on a block of Canal Street off Broadway.

Bag after bag after bag. Police in Chinatown seized, catalogued and then carted away about one-million dollars worth of counterfeit goods.

Not coincidentally, the late morning raid happened in the middle of the holiday shopping season.

"This kind of illegal vending creates a wild west atmosphere that encourages 3-card monty dealers and all kinds of criminal behavior to spring up around it," said Sigrid Burton.

The pile of padlocks shows how investigators from the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement used bolt-cutters to open up and then close down more than 30 Canal Street retailers between Broadway and West Broadway.

"It became more menacing in the last couple of months. One of our members, he would confront them and one of them said, you are going to get a bullet in your head if you keep this up," said Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance.

Police moved in after undercover officers purchased counterfeit handbags, watches and wallets. Many with high-end labels like Gucci, Coach and Chanel.

Authorities also uncovered secret backrooms with still more handbags and backdoor exits for quick getaways from investigators.

Meantime, the sudden police crackdown left knockoff-hungry tourists high and dry. This couple is from Washington.

"I know people who come here and buy six dollar Rolex watches and it's almost a duplicate of a real one, and they're perfectly happy saying, 'look what I've got,'" said tourist Jim Folliard.

The city also won a temporary court order to shutter the 32 illegal stores. To be able to reopen, the owner of the buildings must pay thousands of dollars in fines.