25 7 1 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Across West Michigan, untold numbers of counterfeit coats, purses and perfumes are being peddled at bargain-basement prices.

But it's no bargain when coats start to unravel at the seams, or the Air Jordan moniker on your Nike shoes actually says "Air Jorban,'' – with a 'B.'

That's what Michigan State Police detective Michael Stites found among hundreds of counterfeit items seized last month from a Muskegon store.

"The quality is so bad,'' Stites said of the counterfeit clothes. "The stitching is horrible. The labels aren't correct and the names are wrong.''

It goes back to the old adage – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. "You're not going to buy authentic brand-name merchandise for 50 or 80 percent off original market value,'' Stites said.

Yet consumers continue to buy what they think are brand name items at flea markets and fairs across the state. And it's not just clothes. Michigan State Police recently seized more than 100 bottles of "brand name'' perfume and cologne from several convenience stores and gas stations.

The knock-off products carried familiar – and expensive - names: Chanel Coco, Calvin Klein CK Free, Ralph Lauren and Gucci Envy ME. Prices are certainly attractive; a 3.4 ounce bottle of Marc Jacobs cologne was offered for $50.99 versus the suggested retail price of $98.

"We don't know what's in the perfume itself and that could actually be a physical danger to individuals,'' Stites said. There's a lot of perfume out there. If you're buying it for less than half price, be concerned.''

The FBI in January posted a warning about phony cosmetics and fragrances coming into the U.S. containing arsenic and dangerous levels of bacteria. Knock-off cosmetics have caused conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rashes and eye infections.

Police agencies in the last year have seized truckloads of knock off products worth millions of dollars from more than a dozen Michigan cities.

Federal officials estimate counterfeit goods cost the U.S. economy $200 billion annually in lost revenue. Jobs lost to counterfeit goods is about 750,000.

Police are finding fake products such as Nike, Gucci and Timberland shoes, Coach, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton purses and clothing lines from Burberry, Ralph Lauren and The North Face. These knock-off products are smuggled into the U.S. unregulated, with nearly 80 percent coming from China, according to U.S. Customs officials.

Stites says a good share of counterfeit products entering Michigan is coming from New York aboard trucks or through the U.S. Mail.

Michigan State Police last month seized hundreds of knock-off items from a Muskegon business. The counterfeit clothes were valued at more than $65,000, Stites said. Police charged 38-year-old Charles Clanton of Muskegon Heights with possession and delivery of counterfeit products, a felony punishable by five years in prison.

State police in January investigated a complaint about counterfeit goods being sold at Mega Mall, 350 28th St. SE. Officers seized two boxes of hats, baseball caps, stocking caps and purses with counterfeit trademark names of Gucci, Fox Racing, Nike and John Deere.

Stites said he expects counterfeit trafficking to increase as summer fairs and festivals get underway. "Anyplace somebody could set up a table and sell stuff, there are counterfeit items being sold,'' he said.

25 7 1 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wzzm13.com/story/news/investigations/13-on-your-side/watchdog/2014/05/15/counterfeit-goods/9136619/