Tag Archives: Homeland Security Investigations

Seven Queens residents charged with selling fake designer goods worth $2.2 million

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens District Attorney's office

Buying fake designer bags may be a cheaper option this holiday season, but selling fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel handbags proved costly for seven Queens residents.

The seven were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Wednesday on charges of second-degree trademark counterfeiting for selling fake designer handbags, gloves, wallets, watches and other goods worth more than $2.2 million, according to District Attorney Richard Brown,

The defendants have been identified as Naqing Zhang, 31, and his wife, Wei Wei Dong, 32, of Whitestone; Chin C. Chu, 43, and his wife, Jian Y. Xia, 38, of Flushing; Sai E. Chen, 39, also of Flushing; Wei A. Liao, 41, of  Jamaica; and Pizhong Zhou, 22, of Douglaston.

The arrests were the result of an investigation — dubbed “Operation Treasure Hunt” — that began this summer. It was a joint investigation, conducted by the New York Police Department’s Organized Crime Investigations Bureau, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau. The defendants were caught after each of them sold multiple fake designer goods — Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags; boots and jackets bearing logos of The North Face, UGG and Michael Kors; and Beats by Dr. Dre headphones — to undercover operatives between August and December 2014.

“Trademark counterfeiting is not a victimless crime,” said Brown, adding that these operations fuel an underground economy. “They are cash businesses that pay no taxes, damage the reputations of reputable brand owners and lower consumer confidence in the name brands by foisting inferior products into the marketplace.”

The defendants, who each face up to four years in prison if convicted, were released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 27.




Ancient Italian sarcophagus lid, linked to convicted smuggler, found in LIC

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York

An ancient Italian sarcophagus lid allegedly tied to a convicted smuggler is expected to be seized from a Long Island City storage facility Friday.

A civil complaint was filed Thursday seeking the forfeiture of an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid featuring a high-relief sculpture of a sleeping woman, according to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch.

This specific piece matches pictures found in the files of convicted antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina, according to Italian authorities. The complaint alleges that the piece is considered property of Italy and can be confiscated as stolen property unlawfully brought into the United States.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) agents plan on removing the sarcophagus from the western Queens facility Friday afternoon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

“Whether looted cultural property enters our ports today or decades ago, it is our responsibility to see that it is returned to its rightful owners, in this case, the Italian people,” Lynch said. “We will continue to use all legal tools available to us to seize, forfeit and repatriate stolen cultural property.”

Becchina, who is an Italian citizen, ran an antiquities gallery in Switzerland, and in 2011 was convicted in an Italian court for illicitly dealing in antiquities. During the investigation, before being convicted, authorities searched Becchina’s gallery and warehouse, and among the items seized were photographs, commercial records and customs paperwork relating to the sarcophagus lid.

Becchina allegedly bought the lid in Italy and shipped it to his Swiss gallery in 1981, according to seized records. The now restored marble lid then reappeared 30 years later at a public exhibition in New York. On Feb. 20, HSI agents located the lid in a Long Island City storage facility.

“The forfeiture of this sarcophagus lid brings us one step closer to returning this stolen treasure to its rightful owner, the Italian people,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI in New York.