SAN FRANCISCO — Federal authorities said Tuesday they seized $100 million worth of counterfeit merchandise in a crackdown on shops at Fisherman's Wharf that cater to a steady stream of international tourists.
Eleven people were indicted in the months-long sting that U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello called the largest federal enforcement action targeting the trafficking of counterfeit goods along the West Coast.
Russoniello appeared at a news conference where samples of items illegally imported from China were piled on tables. The knockoff handbags, sunglasses and other products were labeled with more than 70 brand names, including Gucci, Prada and Nike.
"Counterfeiting badly undermines the U.S. economy," Russoniello said. "It robs Americans of jobs, it stifles innovation, and promotes crime."
The San Francisco Bay area, with its large ports and airports, is a hot spot for smugglers of fake goods.
The defendants are owners or employees of eight stores raided in recent months. Two are illegal immigrants.
The indictment was filed in U.S. District Court on July 22 and unsealed Monday. It includes charges of conspiracy, smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods. If convicted, the defendants could face prison terms of up to 20 years and $250,000 fines.
The investigation began in December of 2007, when customs officers intercepted a container at the Port of Oakland filled with counterfeit designer goods.
Investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement later served search warrants at shops, storage locations and the homes of defendants, seizing tens of thousands of additional items.
The defendants began making appearances in federal court Monday.