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"Operation Chimney Sweep" Nets Million In Counterfeit Goods

By David Markland
Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, at 01:54PM
IMG_4405 David Markland [Flickr]

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, City Controller Wendy Greuel, and LAPD Deputy Chief of Detectives David R. Doan look over stacks of counterfeit DVDs.

City officials are hoping that recent anti-piracy raids that netted $4 million worth of counterfeit goods and the arrest of ten suspects will, in City Controller Wendy Greuel's words, "serve as a wake-up call to both criminals and holiday shoppers."

"Operation Chimney Sweep," as it was dubbed by the Los Angeles Anti-Piracy Task Force, is being touted as the largest raid of its kind in L.A. history.

At a press conference, on Wednesday morning, Greuel and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, along with members of the task force, stood in front of numerous items seized in the raids, including counterfeit handbags, iPods, Nikes, and DVDs, seized in the raid.

Greuel said that the city loses 100,000 industry jobs and $5,2 billion in lost revenue annually due to the proliferation of illegal goods. Trutanich added that if the flow of counterfeit goods by "crooks and no-good-nicks" was stopped, "we [the City of L.A.] wouldn't have a budget problem."

LAPD Deputy Chief of Detectives David R. Doan said that criminal gangs were behind almost all of the counterfeit operations due to it being a safer commodity to deal with than drugs and with a much higher profit State Senator Gilbert Cedillomargin. A bootleg DVD that costs 25 cents to produce will sell on the streets for $5.

Most of this month's raids occurred in and around Santee Alley. LAPD Detective Rick Ishanti said that the raids focused on a newer strategy by counterfeit sellers that relies on a network of runners and showrooms away from retail store fronts. Potential customers are shown photos of goods on iPads or cell phones, and if they want to purchase an item, a runner is sent to retrieve it.

While many of the counterfeit goods will now be destroyed, Greuel pointed out that clothing and other items with easily removable labels will be donated to non-profit groups for distribution to those living in poverty, crediting State Senator Gil Cedillo for passing a bill allowing for just this in 2009.

Greuel reiterated the responsibility to combat counterfeit goods also rested with shoppers, who could end up with poorly manufactured products in spite of a recognizable label. "If the price is too goo to be true," she said, "it probably is."

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