Authorities say that's part of the plan, but so is changing the consumer mindset
HELL'S KITCHEN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Authorities are hoping that a massive raid of counterfeit goods ring in Manhattan, what federal prosecutors say is the largest ever seizure of bogus products in U.S. history, will help clear out other illegal operations in the city.
Inside a Gotham Mini Storage facility in Manhattan, was a massive counterfeit goods operation, according to authorities.
It was something that was fairly obvious to Gregg Zuman, who rents space at the facility.
"It was just a was a beehive, busy," Zuman said.
Authorities say there were shelves brimming with purses, wallets and accessories, worth more than $1 billion. They were the kinds of items sold on Canal Street or Fifth Avenue.
"I think they got some of the bad players that were warehousing the merch and supplying it to many individuals who work on the street but don't pay their taxes," said Mark Jaffe, CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce. "They actually are hurting our quality of life."
Jaffe says the counterfeit industry also isn't good for legitimate business.
Two men, Adama Sow and Abdulaj Jalloh, are now under arrest. Sow, 38, of Queens and Jalloh, 48, of Manhattan are each charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The joint effort by Homeland Security Investigations and NYPD seized 219,000 designer knock-offs, which is why the mini storage is now no longer bustling.
"I see them every day I was here," Zuman said. "The whole place is like a ghost town all of a sudden."
That's part of the plan, according to the special agent in charge who said in part, "We will not allow opportunists to convert public warehouses into their own illegal shopping centers, or to wreak havoc on the streets of New York City."
Cracking down on criminal activity is important, but so is changing the consumer mindset, according to Jaffe.
"I say to the consumer, you shouldn't contribute to criminals," Jaffe said. "You're rewarding bad activity."
However, the very low prices for very real looking items is the selling point for many consumers who aren't thinking about the greater implications of these purchases.
Until they stop buying fakes, the market for them will likely continue.