Counterfeit goods seized, police say

4 12 2007

BY JEFFERY C. MAYS Star-Ledger Staff 

Newark code enforcement and vice squads yesterday seized the largest cache of counterfeit goods since the formation of a special task force when they closed a store on Broad Street they said held nearly half a million dollars’ worth of illegal jeans, sneakers and compact discs.

The store, Fit Fine, at 893 Broad St., was selling counterfeit NFL jerseys, The North Face coats, Coogi jeans and fur coats, officials said. Although the gear looked real, it was being sold at steep discounts, said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Ronald Salahuddin. Police also uncovered $16,000 in cash and an illegal barbershop where a bootleg CD operation was under way.

“This is the biggest bust in one spot. This is so much stuff it’s like a warehouse,” said Salahuddin. “This is right across the street from City Hall and they were defrauding the public while hundreds of thou sands of dollars in merchandise was going untaxed.”

Owner Ali Muhammad of Jersey City was arrested and charged with selling counterfeit goods, said Sala huddin. Bail had not been set as of last evening.

Salahuddin said the owner told him that he only started counterfeit merchandise six months ago because his store was doing poorly. The store has been open since 1994.

The bust was more significant than others because — unlike street vendors who sell counterfeit gear — customers may have thought the merchandise was real, Salahuddin said.

The task force was formed last year with the intention of addressing quality-of-life issues that often lead to other types of crime, city officials say. Composed of health, license, and fire inspectors, the vice squad and code enforcement, the task force has set a goal of inspecting all of the businesses in the city. Unlicensed stores, filthy restau rants and stores that sell bootleg merchandise not only endanger public health but also lead to a sense of lawlessness, they say.

The operation was uncovered during a regular check of stores done by Salahuddin’s task force. An officer from the vice squad allegedly purchased a pair of sneakers that looked real but were discovered to be fake.

“People walk in and see stacks and stacks of jeans and think they are buying something legitimate,” said Salahuddin. “They’ve got the tags on it and everything but they are being defrauded.”

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