Troopers tracking source of counterfeit pursesBy JOHN T. EBERTH
Olean Times Herald
OLEAN - Troopers hope to trace a pipeline that flooded the Southern Tier with counterfeit purses back to its source.
New York State Police arrested a Bradford, Pa., woman who allegedly passed off $5 and $10 copies of designer handbags as originals at area purse parties. Troopers requested the press withhold the woman's identity while they attempt to find the source of the counterfeit goods
The woman is charged with felony second-degree trademark counterfeiting. She was arrested Nov. 16 as she exited her Hummer in a parking lot off Main Street in Olean. Police confiscated 315 fake designer handbags and 92 pieces of fake Tiffany jewelry from her.
The defendant allegedly sold fake designer purses and jewelry at purse parties around the Twin Tiers. Local women would host the parties at their homes and invite the defendant over to sell handbags.
State Police Investigator Gabrielle Kyser said she attended one of the parties with a hidden video camera in her own purse. She caught the defendant on tape passing off a cheap copy of a designer purse as an original she was selling at a cut-rate price.
Investigator Kyser said many women in the area were taken in by the scam.
"Everybody wants something for nothing," she said. "But if you stop and think about it, how are you getting a $1,000 purse for $200?"
The woman sold fake Coach, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade handbags and fake sterling silver Tiffany jewelry. Investigator Kyser said the woman told her customers the jewelry was seconds from Tiffany.
One unsuspecting customer bought a watch from the defendant and took it to Tiffany & Co. in New York City to have it repaired.
"They told her the watch was a fake and asked her to leave the store immediately," Investigator Kyser said. "She was embarrassed."
Somehow a rumor spread throughout Olean and Bradford that some of the proceeds from the sale of the bogus bags were funneled to terrorist organizations.
State Police Senior Investigator John Wolf said there is no indication the defendant sold the purses to benefit terrorist organizations.
"She's not a terrorist. She's just a lady selling illegal purses," he said.
Paul Moskal, supervisory special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office, said federal officials have tracked some counterfeit merchandise back to terrorist organizations. He said many fake purses are made in Pakistan for sale in Europe and America.
Special Agent Moskal said it's likely that some of the profit generated by sale of counterfeit items finds its way into the hands of America's enemies. He said the FBI has found that groups unfriendly to the U.S. also benefit from the trade in untaxed cigarettes.
Investigator Kyser said the woman would drive to New York City and buy the purses in bulk for $5 to $10 per purse. She allegedly sold some of the purses as seconds or copies for $50 each. Investigator Kyser said the woman also told her customers some of the purses were original and sold them for $200 to $300.
Investigator Kyser is a fan of designer handbags herself. She said the bags sold by the defendant are obvious fakes.
"I can tell you after just processing 315 purses into evidence, these things are junk," she said. "Some of them smell almost toxic. I left here with such a headache the other day."
Investigator Kyser said the purses aren't illegal to own but aren't worth $50. She said the trade in knock-off handbags is a worldwide crime that affects legitimate sales of the products.
"People don't want to buy Louis Vuitton even if they like them because there are so many fakes out there," she said.
This is my town!!!! I'm so freakin' excited! I hope everyone with those fugly bags see's this and stops flaunting their crap like it's real!!!!