San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf ... famous for killer clam chowder, tourism, and counterfeit designer duds. In what is being pegged as the largest takedown of retailers of counterfeit goods on the West Coast, Federal authorities are putting an end to the bay side sale of fake Louis Vuitton, Prada, Oakley, and Gucci goods.
Cheap goods come with an expensive price tag as the 11 retailers (2 being illegal immigrants) can face up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine apiece for smuggling goods into the country, ten years in prison and a $2 million fine for each count of trafficking counterfeit goods, and potential conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods on top of that, according to SF Weekly. Additionally, because all of the defendants are immigrants, the presence of a felony on their record can lead to deportation, removal, or exclusion from the United States. A total of 230,000 designer knock-offs were confiscated from 8 stores throughout the course of the two-year investigation.
Although the potential punishments may sound like they belong in a more traditional criminal case, white collar crime is an area of criminal law that carries some stiff penalties for those individuals that believe they are above the law. In these counterfeit goods cases, the retailers are profiting off of an established name and style without paying licensing fees to the designer. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton summed up the many issues at play, "American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates. Whether in the flea market, stores or over the Internet ... intellectual property thieves are undermining the United States' economy, on a grand scale," reports the Associated Press.
Moral of the story: no fake Louis Vuitton or other designer knockoff is worth prison time. Counterfeit issues are an interesting niche among white collar crimes because they often fail to address the other party to the transaction-- the consumer. The bargain shopper typically enjoys the fruits of the seller's prison labor without any legal punishment. It looks like Fisherman's Wharf will have to thrive on its more legitimate attractions and leave the designer shopping to the department stores.