OCEAN CITY — Dozens of Ocean City businesses, most on the Boardwalk, under suspicion of trafficking counterfeit retail goods, were raided by federal, state and local officials on Wednesday, although it is uncertain if any arrests were made.
On Wednesday afternoon, federal agents from the Homeland Security Investigations arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Department, began a systematic execution of search and seizure warrants at as many as 24 downtown Ocean City businesses, most of which were concentrated on the Boardwalk. A large amount of merchandise was seized during the operation.
“On Wednesday, federal search and seizure warrants were executed on multiple businesses for allegedly trafficking in counterfeit goods or services,” said Frank Garvey, Resident Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, who is based in Ocean City. “This criminal investigation is still ongoing and additional information is not available at this time.”
According to witnesses, dozens of ICE agents, along with officers from the OCPD and allied state and local law enforcement agencies, began walking up the Boardwalk and entering multiple businesses armed with federal search and seizure warrants.
The warrants were issued for businesses suspect of displaying and selling counterfeit replicas of high-end merchandise. No arrests were made initially, although the investigation is ongoing and charges are reportedly imminent.
Knowledgeable sources also report the raid resulted in the discovery of illegal immigrants as well as other prohibited items being sold in the stores.
Wednesday’s raids were just the latest in a long-running history of counterfeit merchandise sold in some Boardwalk stores. Coach Inc. and Coach Services, Inc., last August filed suits in U.S. District Court against a dozen individual Boardwalk stores for allegedly marketing and selling counterfeit knock-offs of the company’s famous, and expensive for that matter, handbags, dresses, accessories and other goods.
The suits were filed after a Coach investigator entered several Boardwalk stores in June and found the counterfeit goods displayed prominently and offered for sale. In one example, the Coach investigator entered a Boardwalk store and observed 21 counterfeit Coach products in plain view that were offered for sale.
In early June of this year, 11 of the defendants were found in default after not responding to the civil suit and were ordered to pay $10,000 each to the company.