Tucson Gem Show vendors arrested by ICE agents for counterfeits

Tucson’s Gem Show got a visit from special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. They arrested two men Wednesday and seized an estimated $1 million of counterfeit luxury brand jewelry items from a pair of vendors at the Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers show.

HSI special agents seized more than 2,500 pieces of jewelry and nearly $35,000 in cash from booths in the Gem Mall pavilions on Country Club Road and in the Holidome on Palo Verde Road. The seized items feature fraudulent trademarks of companies such as Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Hermes, Coach, Gucci and more. Agents are still tabulating the value of the seized merchandise, but estimate the items have a manufacturers’ suggested retail price of $1 million or more.

The two suspects were arrested and released on their own recognizance pending indictment in Arizona state court. Both face potential state charges of fraud, counterfeiting, money laundering and illegal enterprise.

“People sometimes think they’re getting a ‘gem’ of a deal when they buy knock-off luxury items,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Tucson. “In reality, they are supporting crime. Intellectual property theft hurts American workers and American business and is often tied to other types of criminal activities.”

Both vendors came under suspicion after HSI special agents received a tip that suspected counterfeit jewelry items were being sold at the three booths. Workers at the booths told undercover HSI special agents the items were fake and then sold the items to the investigators.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters. To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit http://www.iprcenter.gov.

HSI Tucson was assisted in the investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson Office of Field Operations and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

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