FOX 29 Investigates: Counterfeit high-end sneakers

- High-end sneakers are all the rage these days. People are spending hundreds,sometimes over a thousand dollars for a single pair. But according to federal and local authorities, in some cases, those popular, big name brand sneakers, you know the ones everybody wants, might not be what you think they are.They could be counterfeit and that could hit you right in the wallet.

Sneakers are big business these days.

"It's bigger than ever. The sneaker market is at it's peak right now," says sneaker store owner Dante Calabrese .

There's nothing like a fresh pair of Jordans, maybe the high end Yeezys like the one's Kanye West wears or maybe a new pair of Adidas.

Calabrese owns Ocean One in Atlantic City. He knows sneakers and he knows his customers.

"As long as it's legit. They want it," he told FOX 29.

"Gotta make sure that they're real,"Anthony told us.

Calabrese also knows how to spot a counterfeit pair of high-end sneakers. When he sees them, he goes the other way fast.

"If it seems too good to be true. It probably is," Calabrese added.

"There's a lot of fakes out there. Try to make sure you get what you pay for," Anthony said.

Up on 5th Street in Philadelphia, you'll find they know the value of high-end sneakers,too. There's only one problem, the ones city and federal investigators seized were counterfeit.

"It's a massive problem and it's a massive problem at every level," Homeland Security Agent William Walker told FOX 29.

"We confiscated over a half a million dollars of counterfeit merchandise in both of those particular locations," said Captain Roland Lee of the Philadelphia Police Department's Major Crimes Unit.

The Major Crimes Unit and Homeland Security investigators raided "DA Hook Up" and "Fierce and Fancy". Inside they say they found hundreds of pairs of counterfeit sneakers along with Timberlands,True Religion Jeans and Michael Kors handbags.

'It's much easier than you think," Captain Lee said.

Police and HSI agents arrested 48-year-old David Fitha and 32-year-old Moussa Alaoule of Brooklyn on trademark counterfeiting charges. Authorities say they confiscated the counterfeit products and seized this truck loaded with merchandise.

"Small store front, high volume," Captain Lee explained.

Investigators are still looking at the pair because they say sometimes the money from counterfeiters ends up overseas.

"Consumers may knowingly be buying counterfeit goods, but may not be aware that the money they're spending is ultimately going back to fuel that and other illegal activities," agent walker said.

Captain Lee says a quick trip to  the "right people" in New York City is all it takes.

"Tell them what you want, how you want it, how many you want, make the transaction and they come down to the city to whatever location you want them to come to and make your purchase and sales from there," he explained.

Agent Walker says most of the counterfeit merchandise HSI seizes comes from China. Sources say sometimes the merchandise is shipped in one container, the high-end designer labels in another. The labels are then glued or stitched on.

"They truly have no idea what they're getting," Agent Walker said.

"It looks like it," Captain Lee said. "They do a good job of disguising it. I have to say they did do a very good job of disguising it, but you're not getting the real deal."

Dante Calabrese says counterfeit sneaker dealers kill his business.

"The counterfeit market is rising and becoming bigger than it's ever been," he told FOX 29

"The price of those products inflates as counterfeiters undermine the market," Walker said.

They also hurt customers like Anthony who lay out big bucks thinking they're getting the real deal.

"Get caught wearing fakes. Your whole reputation is done just like that," Anthony said.

"The counterfeits can be so good that even the best get tricked," Calabrese said.

So called sneaker heads or sneaker collectors like Anthony say there's no room for fakes. 

"No flippin fakes. That's no good around here," Anthony said.

Experts say if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. They warn that millions of dollars made by counterfeiters goes directly overseas to fuel criminal enterprises and in some cases, even terrorism. 

The lawyer for the two men busted in those raids on 5th Street did not return our call for a comment.Court records show those two suspects have been held over for trial.


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