Friday, October 31, 2014

News
Agents Say Counterfeit Goods Hurting Alabama's Economy
By Ashley Thompson


Over the weekend, U.S. customs agents say they seized two million dollars worth of counterfeit items at an Elmore County flea market.

Elmore County's Santuck Flea Market is open for business on the first Saturday of every month, with vendors selling everything from area rugs to electronics. But the Flea Market was just the site of a federal raid, with more than 100 agents confiscating what they say were counterfeit goods. Some say they're pleased with the big bust.

"These retail stores, it's taking away from businesses and also cuts jobs because if you're not going into the retail store to buy things then people are not going to have jobs," says Montgomery resident Felicia Rose.

"I know people buy them to get a cheaper way out but you know, a lot of companies lose money," says Marvin Judkins.

The Elmore County Sheriff's Office helped with the raid. Sheriff Bill Franklin tells us his office was contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement four months ago and offered to help in any way they could. He says although there are many who know when they're buying fake goods, he believes there are also some who are being ripped off unknowingly.

"You've probably got just as many people that are upset that they thought they were buying the real thing."

So, how can you tell if it's the real thing? Bryan Cox with the Department of Homeland Security gives an example with a commonly sold item.

"As you can see it's an Alabama football hat but when you flip it over, the hologram is Major League Baseball. Well Alabama is NCAA not a Major League Baseball team and on the inside of the hat, which again is an Alabama hat, it has a Major League Baseball merchandise tag.

Others say they just use common sense.

"If you look at a Coach bag and they tell you it's forty dollars and you know if you go in Dillards the coach bag is 400 dollars, you've got to know it's fake," says Rose.

It's fake merchandise, much of which is made overseas,  that agents say is hurting Alabama's economy.

"Every dollar that goes toward counterfeit merchandise is a dollar that's essentially stolen from legitimate vendors," says Cox. "They pay taxes, they employ workers and they support the overall healthy economy."

Agents say they found more than 30 trademarks infringed at the flea market and roughly 50 vendors selling fake products. Two people were also arrested on charges of immigration violation during the raid.

Those found selling counterfeit goods can face anything from civil penalties and state charges to federal prosecution.