Forget Handbags: Fake Wine, Batteries Among Goods Seized in Busts

Friday, June 13, 2014
Counterfeiting has become a $500 billion-a-year criminal industry that permeates everything people carry, wear and even ingest.

"[These are] everyday American products that could be retailed in any store around the United States," Lev Kubiak, director of the Intellectual Property Rights Center in Washington, D.C., told ABC News' "20/20."

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Across the country, police are mobilizing to take down the shadow economy. Two cities on the front line in the war against counterfeit goods are Los Angeles and Phoenix, which both have specially trained police units.

ABC News' "20/20" recently got unprecedented access with these law enforcement teams as they busted suspects selling everything from fake luxury handbags and jewelry to fake Viagra and fake shampoo.

Watch "To Catch a Fake" on ABC News' "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET.

"Whether that business is a business that's in a strip mall, or a swap meet, or a guy selling it in the back of his truck -- that point where stolen or counterfeit meets the marketplace is our ultimate goal ... to take the bad guy out," Sgt. David Lake of the Phoenix Police Department's Business and Economic Stability Team told "20/20" on the way to a bust.

From fake batteries and fake soap to fake perfume and fake ointment, click through to see some of the counterfeit goods that have been confiscated by police in busts.

MAC Makeup

These makeup products, labeled as "MAC," were confiscated from a man selling them at his shoe repair store at a Phoenix strip mall by the Phoenix Police Department Business and Economic Stability Team.

The makeup, which was sold as real, was later determined to be counterfeit by industry experts.

Wine

Rudy Kurniawan, who has been called the greatest wine counterfeiter in the world, was caught after he created and put up for auction a 1945 bottle of wine from a particular vineyard the Chateau did actually not use until 1982.

Kurniawan was charged in March 2012 and subsequently convicted of wire fraud for creating and selling counterfeit wines.

He is in jail awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for July 17. He is the first wine counterfeiter ever to be criminally prosecuted in the U.S.

VapoRub

The Vicks VapoRub pictured here is a counterfeit product.

In March, two brothers on Long Island, New York, were arrested for counterfeiting products, including VapoRub, ChapStick and baby oil, in one of the largest counterfeit operations in U.S. history.

Authorities are still investigating, but so far they say the products were sold at stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Soap

It may look like the real thing, but there's nothing natural about this Palmolive soap.

It's one of the many counterfeit products on display at the International Property Rights Center.

Batteries

Both of these are fake Duracell batteries seized as part of an undercover police operation.

"Every counterfeit is made to look exactly like the real product, but the internal components are very, very cheaply made," Lev Kubiak said.

Razor

Authorities caution that fake Gillette razors, such as the one pictured here, are not made well and could be dangerous to use.

"[Our investigations are showing that counterfeit products contain] a lot of lead contaminants, a lot of improper ingredients, things ... that a legitimate company would never introduce," Kubiak said.

Perfume

"What you really have to be is a smarter consumer," Kubiak said. "You have to start to think about: Is the price too good? Right? Number one. Number two, where are the legitimate products really sold?"

This counterfeit perfume labeled as "Dolce & Gabbana" is seen here on display at the Intellectual Property Rights Center in Washington, D.C.

Handbags

Police arrested two men they say used this storage room in a parking garage in Los Angeles to store and sell counterfeit handbags.

Earrings

Last week, these counterfeit earrings were seized by the LAPD.

Part of the items in this seizure were tested and shown to have toxic levels of lead.

"Lead is especially toxic to the nervous system. So lead can lead to confusion. It can lead to seizures and, over time, it can cause some major issues," dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe told "20/20."

Cartier Bracelets

These counterfeit Cartier bracelets were seized last week by the LAPD.

The items tested by the LAPD as part of this seizure were shown to have toxic levels of lead.

Other Jewelry

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested a man selling counterfeit jewelry from his stand at a market in the Los Angeles Jewelry market.

Here is just a sampling of the name-brand counterfeits that were part of the $2.8 million seizure.

Watch "To Catch a Fake" on ABC News' "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET.
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