Is there room for patience in the fight against fakes?

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

If history’s taught us anything, it’s that we’re most likely to hear that ‘patience is a virtue’ when we least want to – cooling our heels in a bathroom line that snakes around a stadium or when waiting for food while our stomachs bang on us like steel drums.

Patience is certainly not a bad thing. Emerson believed we ought to adopt the pace of nature, as its secret is patience. And several other nimble, perhaps more realistic minds claimed that while most people will praise this virtue, very few actually practice it.

In short, patience is a lovely concept, but it’s about as easy to practice it as keeping your hands in your pockets while strolling through Willy Wonka’s candy forest.

In the fight against fakes, when you’re grappling with ruthless profiteers who wouldn’t know virtue if they poured it on their cereal each morning, how could we possibly afford to be patient?

Well, even as we demand swift justice for counterfeiters, a recent case has shown us how this tricky virtue can win the day.

A criminal syndicate that moved millions of dollars of fake goods through the port of Baltimore was recently put on I.C.E., as it were – a ring of 9 counterfeiters has been indicted for smuggling counterfeits into the country with the intent to sell.

A 19-month, slow-cooked investigation run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency hog-tied a counterfeiting operation that had been moving a serious amount of sham weight. Items seized in the haul included:

  • 33 shipping containers filled with fake goods
  • 120,000 pairs of faux Nikes
  • 500,000 sham Coach bags
  • 10,000 pairs of knockoff Gucci and Coach shoes
  • 500 phony Cartier wristwatches

Think about those poor hucksters. What was supposed to be a windfall turned out to be a career-ending collision with the justice system. And they’d probably made plans to put in a pool.

Their lazy backstroking afternoons have turned into frenzied laps in the shark tank. The indictments call for a hefty penalty. If, and we’ve got our fingers crossed, they’re convicted, the counterfeiters could be slammed with the following punishments:

  • the forfeit of all fake goods or their monetary value
  • a fine of at least $1 million for each guilty count of smuggling
  • a fine of at least $1 million for each guilty count of trafficking
  • the forced surrender of any equipment used in the trafficking, including vehicles and containers

Combined with some sizable jail time, it’s just the type of prize package they deserve.

The hard work and yes, patience, of the I.C.E. and their British counterparts earned a big knock against counterfeiting.

That said, the waiting game is best left to law enforcement agencies. When it comes to spreading the word about the fake trade, we can’t delay.

Much like the luxuries we aim to protect, patience is best practiced by master craftspeople. Faking it can have disastrous results.

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