An eviction warrant at a New Cassel warehouse led to the surprise discovery of more than $1 million in counterfeit designer goods and an operation that may have stitched fake designer labels onto 16 million pieces of clothing, authorities said Monday.
In what authorities said was among the largest counterfeiting busts in Nassau history, women from Queens were driven to a Rushmore Street warehouse to stitch phony tags onto purses, pants, coats and more, using four “high volume” embroidery machines, Nassau law enforcement officials said.
When Nassau deputy sheriffs arrived Thursday on the eviction, no one was there, but they found large sacks stuffed with clothes and merchandise in about 3,000 boxes, piled almost to the rafters of the 5,000-square-foot warehouse, authorities said.See alsoRecent LI mug shotsDataLI crime stats
The counter on each of the four machines showed work done on 4 million pieces of apparel, police said, and boxes contained fake tags from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, North Face, Ralph Polo, Ugg and more.
The leasee, Guosheng Hu, 42, of Queens, was arrested Thursday at the warehouse. Hu was arraigned Friday on a charge of second-degree counterfeiting, which carries up to four years in prison, but upgraded charges are expected, officials said.
Hu, of 210 Street in Bayside, was released on a $5,000 cash bail and could not be reached for comment. He was represented by Legal Aid, which has a policy of not commenting on cases.
“It’s kind of amazing that an enterprise of this size forgot to pay the rent,” Nassau acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said a news conference Monday with other top law enforcement officials and federal Homeland Security agents.
The probe has just started, and the police, along with Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato, County Executive Edward Mangano and District Attorney Madeline Singas, said they plan to look into labor violations. They also want to see if there are any ties to organized crime, drugs and terrorism — connections they said are not unusual in counterfeit operations.
“This was an elaborate operation,” Singas said.
The landlord, who asked not to be named, said Hu was four months late on the rent — about $16,000 behind — and had stopped answering his phone and couldn’t be found.
“I went there to go into the place and he had changed the locks,” the landlord said. It was a sophisticated, magnetic device that required a special code and cellphone access, he said.
Hu had inquired about the space last year after seeing the rental sign outside the premise, saying the warehouse would be used to store clothing for his company, Best Return Trading, the landlord said.
It wasn’t Hu who signed the lease a year ago but his partner, the landlord said.
Such counterfeit operations deprive the government of taxes and may endanger consumers because the merchandise has not been tested for flammability, toxicity and other safety factors, county officials said.
The items seized from New Cassel may be destroyed or donated to nonprofits if they pass safety tests, authorities said.
In an unrelated counterfeiting bust, Nassau police arrested Mohamed Hassan, 25, of 98th Street, Ozone Park, and Vladimir Shamalov, 35, of 73rd Avenue, Woodside, for allegedly selling shirts, belts, fragrances and other phony goods.
Hassan was charged with five counts of second-degree trademark counterfeiting and two counts of third-degree trademark counterfeiting. Shamalov was charged with four counts of second-degree trademark counterfeiting and one count of first-degree trademark counterfeiting.
Both were arraigned Sunday; Hassan was released on $10,000 cash bail and Shamalov was released on $5,000 cash bail.
— With John Valenti