Counterfeit makeup and corresponding efforts to protect consumers from the dangerous chemicals that come along with it are on the rise. Case in point: Jorge Robles, Ana Del LaMota and Rossy Robles, a New Jersey-based family, were arrested in December 2014 for importing counterfeit MAC cosmetics items from China and selling them to retailers based in New York City and through an online retailer, and netting them several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jorge Robles, 51, was sentenced to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree counterfeiting. His ex-wife, Ana Del LaMota, 45, was sentenced to three years of probation and will have to pay restitution for third-degree counterfeiting. Their daughter, Rossy Robles, 23, was admitted into pre-trial intervention after a guilty plea on third-degree counterfeiting. She will stay out of jail as long as she does not violate the terms of her probation, which includes having a legitimate job, for three years.
The three family members were caught in connection with "Operation Big MAC," an initiative conducted by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Inspector and the state Department of Treasury in order to cut down on the sale of counterfeit cosmetics. According to a statement from the law enforcement agencies, Canada's most famous makeup brand is facing a big counterfeiting problem. Counterfeiters are trying to cash in on the popularity of MAC cosmetics and it is putting consumers’ health at risk. Counterfeit versions of products by popular brands, MAC and Benefit, were seized, tested and found to contain high levels of lead, arsenic, mercury, copper and cadmium. Recent reports suggest that fake versions may contain up to 19 times the legal level of lead, as well as toxic chemicals that have been found to contain cancer-causing compounds.
The New Jersey-based operation was busted on the heels of a legal victory for MAC's parent company, Estée Lauder, earlier this year. In January, the cosmetics giant was awarded nearly $1.9 million in damages stemming from a lawsuit, in which it alleged trademark and trade dress infringement, knowing and willful trading in counterfeit products, and unfair competition. In that suit, Estée Lauder alleged that the similarly named, Get Your MAC On LLC, was selling counterfeit MAC products on its website (and via retailers, such as Target), according to a similar lawsuit filed by Estée Lauder.
Get Your MAC On LLC was allegedly using MAC’s trademarks (think: Dazzleglass, Mineralize, Opulash, and Viva Glam, etc.) and trade dress on their website and in connection with their marketing, sale, offering for sale and distribution of the counterfeit goods in order to “improperly confuse or deceive the public into believing that [its] products originate with, are manufactured by, or are sponsored by and/or offered with the approval of [MAC], or that the products are offered with and under [MAC’s] supervision and control.” In case that’s not enough, Get Your MAC On reportedly took things a step further by posting the following message on its website: “All our products are 100% AUTHENTIC M.A.C., no fakes here!”
To ensure that you are purchasing authentic cosmetics, only shop at authorized retailers. Lists that indicate what retailers are legitimate sellers of a given brand most often may be found on that brand's website.