TUPELO – Police say Tuesday’s arrest of a woman suspected of selling counterfeit purses will not be the last.
Joan Lesley of Baldwyn was charged with the vending of merchandise bearing counterfeit labels and possession of counterfeit labels for the purpose of vending imitation goods.
Because counterfeiting laws changed on July 1, both are felonies.
Detective Scott Floyd, along with agents from the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office Intellectual Property Crimes Task Force, headed the operation that resulted in Lesley’s arrest and the seizure of more than 700 women’s purses, wallets, sunglasses and other items being sold as authentic goods.
Brands with labels like Coach, Dolce and Gabbana, Ed Hardy, Gucci and Prada were represented. The actual retail value of the items seized is estimated to be more than $100,000.
Lesley was arrested at a retail gift show at a Tupelo hotel.
Before July 1, when the possession of counterfeit labels with intent to sell was made a felony, Lesley would have received a maximum of $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor, far less than what she could have made off a few purses.
But Floyd said the new law has raised the stakes.
“We have worked these kinds of cases sporadically in the past,” said Floyd. “But now with a new task force formed by the Attorney General’s Office we will be cracking down even more now. Selling these counterfeit labels are illegal and people will be arrested for it. And with the holidays here, we feel we may see even more of it popping up.”
Attorney General Jim Hood pointed out an economic impact to the crime.
“It hurts our tax base in the long run,” he said, “and many of these products, such as drugs or tires, can be a dangerous purchase.”
Selling counterfeit goods is big business. According to the International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition, counterfeiting robs the United States of nearly $200 billion a year.
Counterfeit merchandise is directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal