The Department of Homeland Security and NYPD recently pulled off the world’s largest raid of counterfeit goods — and experts told The Post that they likely came from China.

Bogus handbags, shoes and clothing — made to mimic brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermès — were confiscated at a Gotham Mini Storage facility in Manhattan. All told, the estimated 219,000 knockoffs of luxury items would be worth $1 billion if the goods were legit.

“It looks like a professional operation,” Dan Harris, a Seattle-based lawyer who heads up China Law Blog, told The Post. “There’s a 99.5% chance that it originated in China. They would not make [the seized goods] in such quantities in Vietnam or Cambodia.”

The suspects, Abdulai Jalloh and Adama Sow, were charged separately with trafficking in counterfeit goods. Jalloh is out on $500,000 bond and wearing an ankle bracelet, while Sow was released on $1 million bond. Their lawyers would not comment beyond that.

An array of handbags, shoes and clothing knocking off such bands as Louis Vuitton and Gucci were found in the storage unit, which was lined with shelves and hangers.
US Attorneyâs Office/Mega

Still, they may not be at the top of the food chain. “You really think those two idiots had the capital to procure all that stuff?” said Bill Ryan, a former NYPD detective who specialized in busting counterfeiters and now heads Ryan Investigative Group, which consults with companies to prevent them from getting knocked off.

“Are they just the ones who got caught? Their bosses can easily be guys from China,” Ryan told The Post. “When it comes to counterfeit goods, all roads lead back to China.”

According to DHS, Jalloh and Sow’s illicit sales operations had been going on since January.  

In all, some 219,000 pieces of bogus luxury goods were confiscated.
US Attorneyâs Office/Mega

An HSI spokesperson told The Post that “criminals are increasingly breaking large shipments into smaller sizes to limit the risk associated with having one of their shipments seized.”

But while counterfeit operators may have figured out one way to protect themselves, it doesn’t save them from the competition.

“Selling of counterfeits is an extremely jealous, clannish business,” Ryan said. “People rat out their competitors. Generally speaking, [law enforcers] assemble cases by people giving bits of information that you keep piecing together.”

The raid took place at Gotham Mini Storage, an 84,000-square-foot Hell’s Kitchen storage facility with spaces as large as 20-by-80 feet (those go for nearly $5,700 per month).

The goods were seized from Gotham Mini Storage in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
Google Maps

Outfitted with shelves and hangers, Jalloh and Sow’s storage units resemble bona fide stores.

“The variety is impressive,” Harris said. “They seem to have better selections than Saks Fifth Avenue.”

Ryan agrees and is not surprised.

He said that storage spaces like these, which are scattered all over the country, are well suited for rogue retailers.

Former NYPD detective Bill Ryan said that, in his experience, “all roads lead back to China” when it comes to counterfeit goods.

“The criminals get spaces for cheap and the places have loading docks as well as hand-trucks. They don’t draw attention and the storage spaces are large enough to accommodate a car. And you can rent more than one, setting each up for specific types of goods,” Ryan explained. “I’ve seen [counterfeit retailers] rent eight storage rooms at a time and use different ones for sneakers, handbags, coats and shirts. It’s not uncommon for counterfeiters to have the stuff from China sent right to the storage facility.”

He is also not surprised by the timing of the bust.

“There’s always a big hit before Thanksgiving, when people start shopping. And another one before Christmas, when they wrap up their shopping,” Ryan added. “Law enforcers are making the point to retailers and potential customers.”

Ivan J. Arvel, special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York, told The Post: “While one purse may seem harmless, the production and sale of imitation products is far from a victimless crime … Counterfeit products may pose a litany of problems, including through the use of unapproved dyes, materials that are not fire safe, or those with the presence of heavy metals.” 

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