With the holiday season approaching, consumers are being warned to look out for counterfeit or pirated items, some of which, including gas-burning ovens, could be dangerous because they aren’t tested for safety.
At a press conference at police headquarters on December 1, Toronto Police displayed a portion of the nearly $12 million in counterfeit goods seized in the last 18 months as part of Project Pace Two. Project Pace One, conducted in 2013, resulted in about $6.5 million in seized products.
Among the goods seized were imitation Dr. Dre Beats headphones, sold by a business operating out of Montreal. They sold $1 million of the products to Groupon, an online company based in Chicago, which sold the items online.
Following numerous quality complaints, Apple – which manufactures the products – confirmed the headphones were counterfeit.
The FBI, Secret Service and Homeland Security were notified.
“Members of the Financial Crimes Unit became aware that this same business was selling large quantities of these counterfeit headphones in the Toronto area,” said Acting Staff Superintendent Bryce Evans at the press conference.
Detective Rob Whalen, the Toronto Police Service counterfeit expert, said it’s easy for consumers to get tricked into buying the headphones.
“However, once you put them on and start using them, you will find the quality isn’t good,” he pointed out. “They also break very easily.”
Whalen urged consumers to do research before they go out and buy products.
“Most of the manufacturers have their products displayed on their website and some of them offer counterfeit tips, alerting the buyer what to look out for,” he added. “If you hold up one of these boxes next to a legitimate one, you can tell the difference.”
Anticipating that large amounts of Blue Jays products would be sold near the Rogers Centre during the Blue Jays playoff run, officers enforced the Copyright Act. Four people were arrested and a large quantity of fake Blue Jays jerseys seized.
“These T-shirts were selling like hotcakes while the legitimate retailer, who is paying rent and taxes, was having a hard time selling his jerseys at the price point he has to because of overhead,” said Whalen. “If it’s too cheap, you have to look at the product you are buying.”
A large tandoori oven, with counterfeit safety seals, was also on display at the press conference.
Toronto Police made an arrest last week in connection with the widespread sale of the unapproved ovens and stock-pot burners that pose a significant public safety concern.
Gautam Mashetty – the owner of the Kitchen Queen stores at 3001 Markham Rd. and 1415 Gerrard St. E. – was charged with possession of property obtained by crime and possession of wares. He will make a court appearance in January.
Whalen said they have recovered 120 of the estimated 300 fake stoves and ovens sold in Canada.
“As we speak, two of my officers are driving out to pick up three of these stoves,” he said. “I have also received calls from Saskatchewan and we have to send officers out there to photograph the products so we can confirm they are counterfeit. If that is the case, we will shut off the gas.”
Whalen said a major disaster might have been averted in the city on November 30 when Technical Standards Safety Authority (TSSA) officials found a counterfeit stove that was leaking gas in a restaurant.
“With heat sources around it, there could have been an explosion in a food court in a major mall,” he said.
Toronto Police are appealing to the owners of these ovens to contact them at (416) 808-7298 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evans, the head of Detective Services, said his units are committed to continue to strengthen partnership around the world to identify persons engaged in selling counterfeit goods.
“We are doing this because we want to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, including our visitors, minimize the social and economic impact caused by counterfeit goods and significantly reduce the profits made by individuals, organized crime groups and terrorists,” he added.
Lorne Lipkus, a member of Kestenberg, Siegal & Lipkus law firm which is a strong advocate of counterfeit goods investigations, thanked police for pursuing people selling counterfeit items.
“This work cannot be done without the work of police and brands greatly respect the fact that the police have other matters that they have to attend to,” he said. “But, every so often, counterfeiters don’t get the message and the only way to stop them is through the intervention of the police.”