New York Ups Ante in Counterfeit Crackdown

And because they are so inexpensive, counterfeit goods are very popular. They have been flooding the country, shipped in container mainly to New York, Texas and California. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that in 2005, more than $93 million in counterfeit merchandise was seized. While clothing, bags and watches accounted for more than a third of seizures, customs also found fake cigarettes, electronics and pharmaceuticals.

Despite the progress made by law enforcement, counterfeiting continues to plague the U.S. and the world. Each year, New York loses $1 billion in taxes due to counterfeit sales. Counterfeiting represents 10 percent of global trade, according to the Unifab. And the U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimated that fake goods were responsible for the loss of 750,000 jobs in the United States.

Besides hurting the economy, counterfeiting networks fuel criminal and sometimes terrorist activities.

"The same groups which smuggle goods are also involved in prostitution, drug dealing and money laundering," added Ramondi. "There is so much money to make that it attracts criminals."

Counterfeiting has thrived as it allows criminal groups to make profits without bearing the heavy risks tied to drug or weapon dealing.

There have even been claims of links between counterfeiting and terrorist groups. In 2001, fake goods shipped from Dubai to Denmark were sized and an investigation revealed that the merchandise had been sent by a member of al Qaeda.

"People should really think twice before getting involved with such criminals," said Ramondi, referring to criminal groups in New York.

But while producing and selling fake goods is illegal, contrary to Italian or French regulations, U.S. law does not forbid the act to buy and possess counterfeits. The reality is that as long as the fakes remain good and cheap, it's likely consumers will risk the exposure to criminal elements and keep on buying.

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