— -- Recent raids by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department turned up more than 400 buckets of apparently counterfeit laundry detergents at multiple locations in the Los Angeles area.
ABC News was there when the raids were conducted. According to authorities, the fake detergent is available for sale at swap meets, fundraisers and online.
Investigators say that dealers allegedly buy the phony detergent for about $5 and then sell it for sometimes as much as five times the purchase price.
Counterfeiting overall is a nearly $500 billion a year business. This past year alone, Procter & Gamble has helped to identify close to 50 factories that are sending out counterfeit goods. The company which makes Tide, Downy and Gain detergents wants counterfeit products off the streets, and it has urged the U.S. Senate to pass relevant legislation. It has also provided tips to local law enforcement about possible counterfeit product.
Procter & Gamble spokeswoman Anne Candido says the sale of counterfeit laundry detergent has been on the rise. “We started seeing this really escalate starting about a year ago,” she said. “It’s showing up all over the place and the social media is the enabler.”
Lt. Geoffrey Deedrick of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Counterfeit and Piracy Team says one possible factor contributing to the rise could be that selling counterfeit laundry detergent is a lot less risky than selling other types of contraband.
“These guys are driving around with van loads of this stuff every day like it’s nothing,” Deedrick said. “If you made just as much money selling counterfeit Tide as heroin, what would you choose? The Tide.”
Charges stemming from arrests in the Los Angeles raids are pending, police said.
Once seized, samples from the allegedly counterfeit laundry detergent are sent to a Procter & Gamble lab in Cincinnati, Ohio, for quality testing and to determine if the product is indeed counterfeit.
Jack English, a senior scientist at Procter & Gamble, says that the risks of using counterfeit detergent could be very serious. “Without sounding too scary, the risks are quite large because we just don’t know. It would be like putting your family in a car that you have no idea where it came from.”
And while English found that the seized detergent looked and even smelled like the real stuff, he determined that there was an irregularly high amount of water in the product.
Procter & Gamble says consumers should not buy 5-gallon containers of any product being billed as Procter & Gamble detergent because the company doesn’t sell any detergents in that size. Consumers who have any questions about the detergents are advised to call the phone number on the label of any legitimate Procter & Gamble product.