Two Ocean City Boardwalk shop owners were charged Monday with allegedly selling fake handbags and jewelry under high-end names such as Prada, Coach and Louis Vuitton.
Ocean City police executed search warrants at Silver Lining at the 900 block of the Boardwalk and Seashore Jewelry at the 800 block of the Boardwalk on Monday morning, seizing more than 700 pieces of jewelry and 40 handbags, police said.
Seashore's Umar Farooq, 32, of Brigantine, and Silver Lining's Michael S. Miller, 47, of Philadelphia, were each charged under the New Jersey Trademark Counterfeiting Act and for criminal simulation, Ocean City police said.
Both were released on summonses.
In Ocean City, the products had the names of expensive designers such as Juicy Couture, Prada, Coach, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, police said.
Police also seized emblems used to make the handbags.
"What we found were generic bags and labels. And they had the product - they could take the label and put it on," Ocean City police Lt. Steven Ang said.
Both shops were open following the raids on Monday morning.
Attorney John Tumelty, who represents Miller, said his client will fight the allegations.
"We deny the allegation that he was knowingly selling any counterfeit merchandise," Tumelty said.
He said Miller was an Ocean City Boardwalk merchant for 25 years and owned the shop for the past 10 years. Tumelty said the allegations originated from a former employee.
"From his perspective, it's just a false allegation made by a disgruntled employee who got fired and then got denied unemployment benefits," he said.
A message left for Farooq was not returned Monday.
Stumar Investigations, a Philadelphia-based company specializing in intellectual property, assisted in the investigation. The company was also involved in a July raid on the Wildwood Boardwalk during which 10 merchants were arrested and 8,900 counterfeit trademark items - like Monster Energy sweatshirts and Fox Racing insignia - were seized.
Stuart Drobny, of Stumar Investigations, said both Farooq and Miller had previously been warned about the sale of counterfeit merchandise.
"It's something that is rarely seen in Ocean City, New Jersey, and it's a big problem, counterfeiting," Drobny said. "It needs to be taken seriously. The designers are fighting back."
The counterfeit items sell for a fraction of what the authentic items cost; in some cases, the jewelry bearing designer names were never produced at all, he said.
At the stores, counterfeit jewelry like rings, necklaces and bracelets generally sold for $20 to $60, Drobny said. Knock-off handbags, which sold at the shops for up to $100, could retail for anywhere between $300 and $2,000, he said.
"These places are selling bags that are inferior, many have do not return policies, and that is not fair to the tourists. And the unsuspecting consumer, in many cases, might be young kids," Drobny said.
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