Five men were arrested in New York this past week in connection with an ongoing investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security division. Abul Kashem, Kaium Shah, Kenny Ni, Patrick Badal and Parvez Shazzed – better known as the Counterfeit Perfume Ring – have been charged with Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods, Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods, Trafficking in Counterfeit Packaging, and Smuggling Goods into the U.S. as a result of their elaborate scheme to peddle counterfeit versions of branded fragrances throughout the U.S., including those branded as authentic Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and Calvin Klein products.
According to ICE’s two-year investigation, the men sold the Chinese-manufactured fragrances, which they held out to be authentic, to wholesalers in at least seven American states, including New York. Unlike authentic luxury fragrances, the ones at issue contained urine, antifreeze and “other unpleasant, flammable or dangerous chemicals that burn when applied to the skin.” ICE confiscated roughly 10,000 boxes containing the counterfeit perfume, which were destined for distribution “to various businesses in the New York City area, and e-commerce sites, as well,” according to Homeland Security investigator Angel Melendez.
Far from an isolated incident, the manufacture and sale of hazardous counterfeit cosmetics is on the rise. “We are seeing more counterfeit beauty products and cosmetics, and that specific area is an area where we’re aggressively targeting the individuals who sell those goods, which [was] the purpose of this effort,” said Khaalid Walls, a spokesperson for ICE. Walls describes the illegal practice as “all profit motivated”, adding that “anything that can be counterfeited is a potential profit for the individuals or group who are selling these inferior goods. If you’re getting a counterfeit beauty product or cosmetic, the reality is you don’t know what’s in it.”
The Department of Homeland Security reportedly made 2,301 pharmaceuticals or personal-care products related seizures in fiscal 2015, which is an almost 25 percent more than 1,841 seizures in fiscal 2014. The value of these items for fiscal 2015 amounted to over $75 million in retail.
“The counterfeiting of fragrance is not only a crime, but a violation of the artists who create perfumes and a violation of the trust built between retailers and consumers,” said Elizabeth Musmanno, president of The Fragrance Foundation. “The Fragrance Foundation firmly supports the efforts of law enforcement agencies and organizations to fully prosecute those who participate in these illegal and hurtful operations.”
Among the other fake fragrances that the suspects were dealing in include Daisy by Marc Jacobs, Chanel No. 5, Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue, and Gucci Guilty, as well as additional fragrances by Lacoste, Polo, Christian Dior and Juicy Couture.