Anne Arundel County police have arrested a New York man, and charges are also pending against the owners of two sporting goods stores, after a crackdown on counterfeit merchandise last month, officials said yesterday.
Guangding Yu, 53, has been charged with five counts of selling counterfeit digital video discs, sunglasses and designer handbags valued at about $290,000, police said. Yu, a resident of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., had opened the Brumwells Flea Market in the 3900 block of Mountain Road in Pasadena. His trial is set for September.
His arrest last month, made with the assistance of private investigators working for Oakley sunglasses and a representative from the Motion Picture Association of America, led police to expand their search across the county.
A private investigator working for the National Football League led officers to Charm City Sports in Pasadena on June 19 and the All Jerseys Store in Glen Burnie on June 27, where police seized $30,000 in merchandise, mostly phony jerseys from professional football and baseball teams, many of them legitimately autographed, police and store owners said.
A spokesman for the NFL would not confirm any league involvement in the inquiry, nor would police, but Charm City Sports co-owner Chris Evans said a Bowie-based investigator came to his store and helped police identify items he said were counterfeit.
Investigator Richard Logue, a former Prince George's police officer who specializes in intellectual property matters, did not return calls seeking comment.
"The NFL and many sports leagues work with private investigators and law enforcement to confiscate counterfeit merchandise," said Dan Masonson, spokesman for the NFL. "Counterfeiting is an illegal activity that we take very seriously. The victims are the fans first and foremost, and the retailers who sell the merchandise. The fans are entitled to a superior product used by the NFL and NFL teams."
The NFL has a lucrative licensing deal with Reebok, which makes jerseys and other apparel for all of its 32 teams. The sporting goods companies pay a hefty fee to sell the products, said Marty Brochstein, executive editor of the Licensing Letter, a twice-monthly industry newsletter.
"That's reason enough for the crackdown. Any trademark owner has to enforce its trademarks, otherwise they can lose the right to them," he said. "They have to protect their economic rights."
Evans said that about 150 jerseys were seized from his store, although nearly a third were returned after police determined they were not counterfeit. An additional 50 jerseys had come from a seller he believed had legitimate permission to sell Baltimore Ravens jerseys, he said.
A woman who identified herself as "Mar" at Pro-Am Sportswear, the company at which Evans said he purchased the jerseys, said she had been paid by the Ravens to give jerseys to friends and family members of players around the time of Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. She had done so -- and billed the Ravens -- ever since then, she said, and also made jerseys for sports collectors to use at autographing events with players.
Evans said he bought some for an event he organized with Ravens player Haloti Ngata before last season, when there were no jerseys available for resale.
Kevin Byrne, spokesman for the Ravens, said last night that he was unaware of any such arrangement with the woman and was not in a position to verify her claim.
Although police said charges are pending against Evans and other store owners caught with counterfeit goods, he said he doesn't believe he will be arrested.
"I'm not an expert, I can't tell the difference between what's legitimate and what's not," he said. "And if I'm guilty, so is every dealer in the country. What they took out of my store, they'd be able to go to every store in the country and do the same thing. I don't make money on phony jerseys, I make money on autographs."
David Cook, owner of the All Jerseys Store, said he had not been charged with a crime, and had been "embarrassed" by the raid June 23.
He said he was "bamboozled" by a dealer selling counterfeit goods worth several thousand dollars and had contacted Reebok and other reputable wholesalers so he would not make the same mistake twice.
Cook said he wants to get merchandise directly from the manufacturer, but they make it difficult for small retailers to open an account.
"Reebok wants two of your kids, your house and your car to get an account with them," he said.