New Bill Seeks To Punish Buyers Of Fake Designer Merchandise

04/26/2011 02:33 pm 14:33:19 | Updated Jun 26, 2011

Looking for a fake Rolodex? Maybe a Louis Viutton knockoff? Maybe don't buy it in New York.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin is proposing a bill that would punish buyers of fake designer products, sold largely in her native Chinatown, with harsh, almost draconian penalties.

Buyers could face a year in jail or a $,1000 fine under a proposed bill by a city councilwoman fed up with cheapskate tourists and Big Apple residents flooding her district in search of fake designer merchandise.

"We don't want to be known as the place to come to get counterfeit goods," said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, whose Chinatown district is ground zero for counterfeiters.

Under Chin's bill, which is being introduced Thursday, shoppers caught buying any counterfeit product could be jailed or slapped with a fine of $1,000 -- a little less than the price of Marc Jacobs' frequently copied Baroque Quilting Mini Stam bag, which retails for $1,250.

The report indicates the law would target customers in places like Canal Street, who actively buy cheap imitations to save money. The law would also dictate that only people caught in the act of purchasing a knockoff could be arrested. People wearing, say, a pair of fOakley sunglasses while walking down the street would not be charged.

If passed, Chin says she'd put up signs up in problem areas notifying people of the new rules.

Cities across the country are struggling with the sale of fake designer items. Last year Coach, which sells high-end leather products, sued the city of Chicago for allowing vendors to sell knockoffs in the New Maxwell Street Market. In San Francisco, federal authorities seized over 100 million dollars worth of counterfeit goods from vendors on Fisherman's Wharf.

According to a report from Daily Finance, companies in the United States lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year on imitation products made abroad, especially in China.

Councilwoman Chin also claimed that money made from counterfeit goods went on to support other illegal activities like terrorism. A report last year showed that some money from the traffic of fake goods ended up financing Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group.

Some New York officials have their doubts about Chin's idea, saying the law would be difficult to enforce. One police officer told the Post, "It's never going to fly."

The law has found support from Chin's colleagues, with five people already signed up to co-sponsor the bill.

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