Durham sting nets arrests, millions in fake goods

DURHAM A three-day liquidation sale held at a downtown Durham hotel was shutdown indefinitely Friday afternoon, following the arrests of three vendors and an event organizer.

Investigators say they uncovered millions in counterfeit goods that violate trademark laws.

Ironically, only authorized vendors can sell name brand products.

ABC11 Eyewitness News has learned a merchant was selling counterfeit perfume in legitimate designer packaging.

"It is a Gucci lookalike or seem alike," Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said. "All are violations of the trademark."

Marshall couldn't comment on the undercover sting operation, but says it was a multi-agency effort.

Investigators with the Durham County ABC and the Secretary of State Anti-Counterfeit Unit conducted the bust.

Agents estimate the confiscated items are worth $3.6 million if sold at market price.

Companies serious about protecting their brand hire private investigators to case independent vendors statewide, and then they alert authorities about potential problems.

"If it seems too good to be true, it is and I know these are tough economic times and people want to provide for their kids," Marshall said. "When you buy these you're stealing jobs, you're stealing revenues."

ABC11 was there as investigators confiscated hundreds of video games, DVDs and fake perfumes being sold out of legitimate packaging.

Eager shoppers came in search of big time bargains, but say they were disappointed.

"There's a lot of people walking out with long faces," customer Mike Davis said. "There were things that looked name brand at very good prices and none of them are here. It's not as advertised and now we're out $16 bucks and we didn't get anything worthwhile."

Most vendors were following the rules, but as a precaution management decided to cancel the event.

Charges are pending against the suspects.

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