In 2010 and the first half of 2011, we saw a huge large increase in cases involving documented hard core gang members being involved in the sales and distribution of counterfeit and pirated goods. This trend appears to be growing and it appears that the answer why is very simple, low risk, high reward. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recently completed a trademark counterfeiting case involving an El Monte Flores gang member, who had previously been deported from the United States and has close ties to Le Eme. During this case, LASD seized over 2 million dollars worth of counterfeit merchandise, including shoes, perfumes, and sunglasses during their investigation.
The Los Angeles Police Department conducted multiple enforcement actions on a business called Now What Clothing in their Southeast Division. The location was being operated by the East Coast Crips. During the actions, LAPD recovered several handguns and 2 pounds of Marijuana, and a kilo of Methamphetamine. The Southeast Division of LAPD has also had other cases involving the Grape Street Crips and the 4 tray Crips. These cases have involved routine traffic stops and also the gangsters setting up retail stores. It appears that these stores are also being used as a front for the sales of guns and narcotics.
In LAPD’s Central Division, we have seen cases involving gang bangers from MS 13, 18th Street, 42nd Street Little Gangsters, Los Carnales and 36th Street. Most of these cases involved music piracy and luxury goods, such as handbags and sunglasses being sold in and around the Santee Alley area.
The LAPD’s Harbor Vice Unit arrested a Compton Crip, who was selling counterfeit shoes from the trunk of his car in front of a laundry mat. The gangster told law enforcement that he could make good money selling the counterfeit shoes and that no one was going to prison for it.
This is the gangster mentality when it comes to selling counterfeit merchandise. Remember, gangsters can make more money selling counterfeit goods than they can selling drugs. Intellectual property theft is growing everyday and gangsters understand that they can easily profit from what many people feel is a victimless crime. Counterfeiting and piracy hurt us all!
By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants