03/30/08 — $80,000 in fake goods seized at two stores

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$80,000 in fake goods seized at two stores

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 30, 2008 2:02 AM

Depending on where he or she buys them, a pair of "True Religion" brand jeans can run a shopper more than $700 retail.

And that pricey denim was among more than $80,000 in other counterfeit items seized from two Goldsboro stores late Friday, authorities said.

The Sheriff's Office seized the goods from the Hip Hop Spot on North Spence Avenue and The Urban Collection on East Elm Street, detectives said. The stores' owners will face felony-level charges.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Detective Carl Lancaster is trained to spot phony goods -- he is a certified member of the Anti-Counterfeit Trademark Task Force.

The task force, which is organized by N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, is a coalition of state officials and law enforcement officers used to combat counterfeit trade.

The group exists because the sale of bogus goods is not a victimless crime, according to government trade officials.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 750,000 Americans lose their jobs each year because of sales of forged trademark products.

In Wayne County, authorities say they plan to enforce the laws more strictly than in the past.

Lancaster said in prior raids, authorities usually just seized the goods without charging store owners.

"We decided we're going to start enforcing the law the way it should be done," he said.

Hip Hop Spot owner Ziad Assed Ismail faces one count of felonious criminal use of counterfeit trademarks, Capt. Tom Effler said.

Urban Collection owner Corey Feliciane Lewis faces charges for making phony DVD movies and selling them, Lancaster and Effler said.

"He was printing DVDs and covers out, packaging it and selling it," Lancaster said.

He added that one packaged DVD in the store was still in theaters and had not been released for the home video market.

The raids took place after a state counterfeit goods specialist spotted suspected forgeries of trademarked products, Lancaster said.

"We have a gentleman who comes down from Raleigh. He'll go into into these stores, and he's the expert on identifying these things," Lancaster said. "Then we go in and do our thing."

Lancaster said other items included Nike shoes, game system software, sweatsuits and other items.

"The real high-dollar stuff," Lancaster said.

The detective said a pair of counterfeit True Religion jeans was priced at $280 per pair at the Hip Hop Spot, located in the Spence Avenue Wal-Mart complex.

A manager at Hip Hop Spot said Ismail was out of the country on family business, but told the manager that dishonest suppliers were to blame for counterfeit goods appearing on his shelves.

Lancaster said that at least some of Hip Hop Spot's counterfeit goods might have come from New York City.

"I've seen some invoices and things like that, where items have been purchased from New York, around the Broadway area," Lancaster said.

Arrest warrants were issued for both Ismail and Lewis.

People with information about their whereabouts are asked to call Detective Sgt. Ron Baker at 919-731-1481 or Crime Stoppers at 735-2255.