Shops suspected of selling fake goods, including drugs
Boxes of allegedly counterfeit goods sit in a Madera shop after federal and local agents executed state search warrants Thursday. (Courtesy of Madera County)
Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn is expected to file charges as early as Monday against two men arrested Thursday afternoon by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
The agents executed state search warrants at five local retailers suspected of selling counterfeit and misbranded goods, including pharmaceuticals. ICE and Homeland Security investigators were assisted by local District Attorney investigators during the operation. Cease and desist orders were also served.
Nicholas Ramon Ramirez, 60, of Madera, was taken into custody at Del Valle Food in the 200 block of 9th Street. During a search of the store, HSI special agents recovered a large quantity of misbranded medications, including three bottles of the powerful pain killer Tramadol, a controlled substance that can cause addiction and even death if misused.
Many of the seized pharmaceuticals were illegally imported from Mexico and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the U.S. Some of the medications were displayed in a glass case near the checkout stand, but a majority of the pharmaceuticals were found in a storage room in the rear of the business.
Ramirez will be charged with various crimes, including the selling of illegal drugs.
Also arrested during Thursday’s enforcement action was Iyad Aljaal, 42, of Madera. Aljaal was taken into custody at Casa Nova Fashion and Wireless in the 300 block of East Yosemite Avenue. Investigators’ search of that location led to the seizure of more than 900 counterfeit professional sports jerseys bearing the trademarked logos for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.
HSI special agents also recovered belts and wallets packaged in boxes falsely bearing the Hermes brand name. Aljaal will be charged with felony for sale of counterfeit merchandise.
“My office and my personnel have a long history in assisting other state and county agencies in their operations, and in this case it was a privilege to help ICE and Homeland Security clear our commercial establishments of unlawful goods,” said Linn. “Since included in the material ... are significant amounts of pharmaceuticals, we believe that these are serious crimes that could gravely endanger the health of Madera County citizens.”
Besides the two businesses named above, HSI special agents also executed search warrants Thursday at three other locations, all located on East Yosemite Avenue: Casa Nova Fashion and Shoes, Santa Marta Botanica, and Jaliscience Jewelers.
“The trafficking of counterfeit goods poses a triple threat,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, the special agent in charge who oversees HSI operations throughout northern California. “Such activities deliver shoddy and often dangerous goods into the economy, rob Americans of good-paying jobs, and generate proceeds that are often funneled back into other criminal enterprises. HSI will continue to work with its enforcement partners to combat the distribution of counterfeit products, like those seized in Madera yesterday that could put unwitting consumers at risk.”
Thursday’s enforcement actions are part of an ongoing probe that began earlier this year after HSI received information about shipments of Chinese-made counterfeit apparel being sent to a location in the Madera area. Subsequent investigation identified additional businesses linked to the possible sale of counterfeit goods.
HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity. Last fiscal year, HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection made more than 28,000 seizures involving counterfeit goods with an estimated value of almost $1.4 billion. The International Anti-counterfeiting Counterfeiting Coalition estimates intellectual property crime costs U.S. businesses $200 to $250 billion a year in lost revenues.
To report intellectual property theft or learn more about the HSI-led Intellectual Property Rights Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov, or contact the Madera County District Attorney’s Office at 675-7726. For information on HSI’s role in the current case, contact ICE Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096.