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Bill Looks to Bag Purchases of Counterfeit Goods

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Counterfeit bags in Chinatown Counterfeit bags in Chinatown (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

Fake designer goods may soon not be worth it to New Yorkers trying to bag a deal.

City Council member Margaret Chin is set to introduce legislation on Thursday that would criminalize the purchase of fake, trademarked items — turning the action into a class A misdemeanor that could include jail time or a $1,000 ticket.

"The bill targets those people who purchase goods that they know are counterfeit," Chin said.

The bill would empower police to issue summonses or make arrests of people caught buying counterfeit goods.

Cabrina Whitam said she commutes from New Jersey to pick up bags on Canal Street.

"They're probably knock-offs, but $1,000 as opposed to $80. What would you do?" posed Whitman, who said she plans to continue shopping for counterfeit bags.

A 2004 audit from the city's comptroller office said the sale of counterfeit goods cost the city $1 billion in lost tax revenue.

Mickey Machioto, who works as a vendor on Canal Street, said the bill will ultimately hurt the city's tourism industry: "It's going to be bad. It's going to empty Canal Street. A lot of people come to New York City specifically to buy stuff from me."

Mohammad Halley, an immigrant from West Africa, flashed a white card featuring more than a dozen kinds of fake designer bags to lure customers to his stash. He said he's been selling counterfeit bags on Canal Street "all his life in New York." Halley said that he was concerned that the bill would hurt his bottom line.

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