Counterfeits Salesman in Downtown Los Angeles Sentenced to Prison

From California Apparel News ( June 23, 2009
Nearly nine months after federal investigators swooped down and arrested a wholesaler for selling thousands of fake designer goods out of a downtown Los Angeles space, the merchant was sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison.

Mohammed Siddiquee, a 32-year-old from Bangladesh, was in federal court in Orange County, Calif., June 22, where U.S. District Judge James Selma issued the sentence, federal authorities said.

Ronald Cheng, an assistant U.S. attorney in the cyber and intellectual-property crimes section, said the court determined the sentence’s length by affixing a $400,000 value to the more than 10,000 counterfeit items as opposed to calculating what the goods’ value were had they been sold at designer prices.

The handbags, scarves, shoes and hats were being sold under labels such as Chanel, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci. Also, patches, emblems and hangtags were found bearing the insignia of Coach, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and others.

The sentencing follows a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation last October, when agents received a search warrant and combed through Siddiquee’s business, called Sitara Enterprises, at 830 S. Hill St. “There was an informant who made a purchase from him in 2008 who provided information to us, and that is when the investigation began,” Cheng explained.

The seized items were manufactured in China, came into this country as non-designer goods, and then had emblems and tags affixed to make them look like designer merchandise. They were brought in through the Port of Long Beach, federal authorities said.

“Our investigation determined this individual was supplying vendors throughout the United States, including some individuals who are hosting those purse parties,” said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokesperson. She added the investigation continues, with agents trying to determine which retailers and individuals were selling the faux goods as designer items. “This investigation will go where the evidence leads us,” Kice said, noting that the value of the counterfeit merchandise seized is really in the millions when you consider designer-level pricing.

Even though Siddiquee’s name is similar to the name of one of the suicide bombers involved in the 2005 London bombing of the Underground and a bus that killed 52 people, federal investigators said they do not believe he was associated with any terrorist activities. —Deborah Belgum