PARKE COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – In the midst of festival season, your concern may be scoring a one of a kind find. However, for police, their concerns are the authenticity of those finds.
“Counterfeit items are always a huge concern all over the state of Indiana, and we’re starting to see them more and more,” said Corporal Heather Lynch, Indiana State Excise Police.
Increased counterfeit sightings also extend to the Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County. On Wednesday, police made 24 arrests in Mansfield, Indiana in connection to counterfeiting. Officials say the year long investigation stemmed from citizen complaints made in 2015.
Around 10 a.m., Excise Officers served 28 warrants at vendor booths and vehicles at the 6560 South Martin Road Covered Bridge location. Police arrested 24 people working the booths at the time of the search warrants. The individuals, based out of the states of Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan, were taken to the Parke County Jail. All face charges of Counterfeiting and Forgery, all level 6 felonies.
“Our officers started working, going to different locations and checking out the different types of merchandise that they had,” Lynch said, “They realized there was a lot of counterfeit, suspected counterfeit merchandise being sold.”
Officials say officers recovered tens of thousands of items imitating the brands of Nike, The North Face, Ray Ban, Michael Kors, Oakley, Ugg, Adidas, Beats by Dre, Louis Vuitton, MLB, NBA and NFL.
“Anything name brand that you can think of that people normally spend a lot of money for, or higher dollar amounts for, those are the ones getting counterfeited,” Lynch said.
That’s why officials continue to call for the public’s help in staying vigilant and being aware of counterfeiting.
If you’re purchasing counterfeit items, Lynch says you could put yourself at risk.
“You don’t know what types of chemicals are being used to produce the materials,” she said, “The sunglasses, for example, should have certain levels of UV protection, and when they’re counterfeited, they’re not produced with the same level of quality that they would be by the name brand.”
In addition to that, if you’re purchasing counterfeit items, Lynch says your money could be used for the wrong reasons.
“This has been found nationally, other organizations, other police agencies, other federal agencies have found ties to international crime organizations, money laundering, some have even been tied to terrorist activities,” she said.
So what are some red flags when it comes to spotting the real from the fake? Lynch says pay attention to where items are being sold as well as prices that seem too good to be true.
“More than likely Nike, Michael Kors, NFL, Major League Baseball, The North Face, Under Armour, those types of things are not going to be sold in the gas station. Those types of things are more than likely not going to be sold at the flea market and especially at deeply discounted prices,” she said.
Another indicator is the quality of the item.
“If it’s made of leather, if it doesn’t smell like real leather or feel like real leather, look for the stitching, if there are irregular seams or loose threading,” she said, “Your higher-end, name brand clothing items and accessories are not going to have those types of things, they’re not going to have those irregularities in them.”
While 24 arrests were made in connection to counterfeiting, Lynch says it’s just a step in combating the problem.
“This is just a small win in this situation to try to figure out where and what other ties this could be possibly tied in to,” she said, “We worked with the Parke County Prosecutor’s Office and the sheriff’s department has also been a huge help. I think they realize having this in their communities and not knowing what types of dangers that could be passed on to the consumer out there and what crimes it could be funding down the line.”
If you suspect counterfeit activity happening in your area, you can contact Indiana State Excise Police. You can report activity to your local excise agency by email or by phone through a citizens complaint. Tips can be anonymous.