You can buy just about anything you want, legal or otherwise, on the sidewalks of New York. Of course, you take your chances when you do so. The guy on the corner selling Prada bags may swear the bags are the real thing but most street-smart shoppers know better.
But once you set foot in a store, there's a certain expectation that the merchandise will be what it's said to be.
One place where that allegedly wasn't true was the Mendi Gift Shop, at 251a Canal Street in Manhattan. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Friday announced the arrests of Chen Zhibin, 49, and Yun Wei Huang, 47, charged with selling counterfeit copies of designer handbags and watches.
High-end designer goods
Schneiderman says the two -- who are husband and wife -- displayed counterfeit high-end designer goods at discount prices. These goods displayed the registered trademarks of well-known brands such as Hermes, Rolex, Michael Kors, Celine, Chanel, Ray Ban, Prada, Coach, Hublot, Tory Burch, Gucci, Oakley and more.
But, said Schneiderman, none of the items were authentic and were not manufactured by the legitimate manufacturers. Instead, they were substantially similar copies bearing the registered trademarks of these manufacturers, but of very low quality.
“Counterfeiting is a serious crime that robs legitimate, well-known businesses of customers and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in revenue each year,” said Schneiderman. “Counterfeiters like these deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and taken off the streets.”
Besides allegedly selling counterfeit goods, Schneiderman said Zhibin and Huang underreported both their corporate income and their personal income to avoid paying sales taxes and income taxes to New York State. While reporting combined earnings of only $30,000 annually, Zhibin and Huang own two residences in College Point, as well as three vehicles – a BMW X5, a BMW 550, and a Honda Civic.
"The trafficking and sale of counterfeit goods is a criminal activity that victimizes honest New Yorkers," said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox. "Contraband traffickers and sellers are now on notice that the New York State Tax Department will work with all levels of law enforcement to end these crimes and bring the criminals to justice."
The two are each facing one count of Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree, a Class E Felony, and one count of Trademark Counterfeiting in the First Degree, a Class C Felony.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 25 years in state prison.