When Detective Rob Whalen plugged in what was purported to be a Magic Bullet Blender to a power outlet to see if worked, it started smoking. On opening a packaged wireless blue tooth headset, he discovered that the battery was overheating.
“The blender could be sitting in your kitchen and the next thing you know is that it catches fire overnight,” he said at a news conference at police headquarters on December 9.
These two products were among hundreds of counterfeit products seized by Toronto Police investigators in four search warrants executed in the city on December 5, 6 and 7.
Whalen said the investigation, dubbed project Lucky Chan, started last month after Toronto Police received several complaints from consumers in regards to makeup causing skin irritation.
“We sent samples to various manufacturers who were quick to indicate it was not their products and they were all counterfeit,” he said. “While we were looking to see who was importing the products into Canada, we got complaints of electronic appliances overheating and batteries smoking. It turns out it was the same supplier.”
Police determined that Lucky’s Import & Wholesale at 1607 The Queensway was the importer and they had a large warehouse at 550 Evans Ave.
Almost 16 truckloads of products were seized.
“If the products were real, they would be valued at almost $2.5 million,” Whalen said.
The products ranged from cosmetics and electronic equipment to children’s toys and metal signs.
“In addition to being counterfeit, the products have various safety hazards,” said Whalen.
With an increase in counterfeit products flooding the market, Toronto Police is warning city consumers to be extremely vigilant as they make purchases during the festive season.
“If you are going to be buying products online, research them,” Whalen said. “Look at the packaging to see if it’s slightly off. If a store is selling products that don’t match, that should be an indicator that something is not right because most stores don’t sell makeup and electronics.”
Whalen also reminded consumers who purchase counterfeit products that they can recover their money.
“If you suspect you bought counterfeit products, especially if you use a credit or debit card, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, file a report with them and if the product is found out to be counterfeit, you will immediately get your money back,” he said.
Supt. Bryce Evans said handbags, watches, jewelry, smart phones, shoes, pharmaceutical drugs, computers, designer labels, shoes and food products rank among the top 10 counterfeit manufactured products.
“The reality is that counterfeit goods, besides stealing revenue from companies, also contribute to an unethical labour market in most cases involving children, support and fund organized crime groups and pose a threat to global health and safety,” he said. “The Toronto Police is committed to working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and members of the private sector to investigate counterfeiting activity that places a risk on the health and safety of all people.”
Lorne Lipkus, a member of Kestenberg, Siegal & Lipkus law firm, which represents companies who have their brands counterfeited, thanked police for pursuing people selling counterfeit items.
His office represents over 80 intellectual property rights holders across Canada.
“We can’t, on behalf of intellectual property rights holders, deal with these cases on our own,” he said. “We have to partner with the police and law enforcement across Canada. We don’t have either the expertise or their ability to know whether someone is involved in organized crime… Many of the products before you are substandard and have no markings that would be legitimate.
“…The counterfeiters that we are dealing with don’t care about anybody in this room. They only care about making a buck. They don’t care if they are using a substandard or illegal product. All they care about is making it look like the real thing and selling it to the public.”