Volume 20, Number 42 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | FEB. 29 - MARCH 6, 2008
Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel
Police on Canal St. Tuesday. They padlocked 32 stores on the block between Centre and Baxter Sts. Below, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, with Assistant Chief Anthony Izzo of the Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau, standing in rear.
Police bust ‘Counterfeit Triangle’on Canal St.
By Jefferson Siegel
An entire city block of Chinatown was closed on Tuesday as police shut down dozens of stores they said were engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods.
Metal barriers surrounded the block bounded by Canal and Walker Sts. and Centre and Baxter Sts. as police from the Fifth Precinct and Manhattan Borough South were joined by members of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement in a coordinated seizure of illegal merchandise.
At a press conference in the lobby of the two-story New Land Plaza building, which housed many of the 32 stores accused of selling knockoff goods, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Shari Hyman, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, stood next to a table filled with counterfeit bags, jewelry and perfume labeled and sold as originals.
“It has been one of the most notorious knockoff shopping malls in the five boroughs,” Bloomberg said as he stood in front of a staircase filled with bags of counterfeit merchandise. He added that there were a handful of legitimate businesses in the building that were forced to close for the day due to the police action.
In the predawn raid, police were armed with warrants approved by a judge and obtained after a series of 42 undercover purchases made over the previous five weeks. Using bolt cutters, they entered the stores and began hauling off approximately $1 million of illegal goods.
“Dolce & Gabbana, Rolex, Coach, Calvin Klein, Dior, Prada. These are just a few of the knockoff labels that the counterfeiters were using,” Bloomberg noted.
Calling the square block of stores the “Counterfeit Triangle,” Bloomberg added the city was pursuing legal action to shut down the stores permanently. The city ultimately hopes to vacate the building, forcing the purveyors of illegal merchandise out, Bloomberg said.
Criticizing the belief that selling counterfeit merchandise is a victimless crime, the mayor said, “Counterfeiters rob legitimate businesses of customers and their employees of their paychecks.” Trafficking in counterfeit goods is organized crime, he continued, often involving armed assaults.
Bloomberg said counterfeit sales rob the city of almost $1 billion in sales tax revenue annually, adding that it was “money we need, now more than ever, to pay for schools, parks, police and fire protection.”
While holding a bright orange “Closed” sign similar to one that was affixed to the storefronts, Hyman said, “We were able to identify three buildings that represent the worst of the worst in this business.
“We are not only seizing all the illegal goods,” Hyman continued. “We are, through our own court action, padlocking this entire block until the property owner agrees to abide by the law.”
Commissioner Kelly called on the public to stop patronizing the illegal shops, adding, “We need educated consumers to do their part, too.”
More than 150 employees worked seven days a week, 10 hours a day in the illegitimate stores, even as the building’s owner a company named Terranova ignored a long-standing federal court order to cease illegal activity, Bloomberg noted.
Later in the afternoon, a police tractor-trailer stood parked on Canal St. as police officers inside the stores filled large, clear bags with knockoff items and then closed and padlocked the stores’ metal gates.