By Joe Anuta
Undercover investigators busted a ring of alleged toy counterfeiters this month who stashed up to $500,000 worth of ersatz merchandise in a College Point warehouse, the Queens district attorney said Monday.
“The defendants are accused of not running some small mom-and-pop operation but, rather, a well-organized business that catered to retailers throughout the metropolitan area,” said Richard Brown, the Queens DA. “Such trademark counterfeiting defrauds the toy industry of millions of dollars in worldwide revenue and rips off honest consumers who purchase these fake and typically shoddily made toys.”
An investigator from a private security firm posed as a buyer on numerous occasions between March and June, when he entered J & L Trading’s warehouse, at 15-17 132nd St., to purchase merchandise bearing the trademarks of Rovio Entertainment, creator of the Angry Bird franchise, and Disney Enterprises, among others, the Queens DA said.
Ying Jiang, 38, of 19-17 144th St. in Whitestone, and her employees Deqiang Luo, 49, of 144-15 22nd Road in Whitestone, and Haiwei Chen, 54, of 33-37 Prince St. in Flushing, were charged with first-degree trademark counterfeiting, a Class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“Such piracy deprives the city and state of much-needed tax revenue,” Brown said. “My office will continue to work to close down these illegal operations and prosecute those involved to the full extent of the law.”
The investigation began March 28, when an employee of the private security firm Allegiance Protection Group approached the warehouse and observed open cardboard boxes full of fake goods, the DA said.
Then in early April, the investigator returned to make a purchase and was told by Jiang that at least six of any one item had to be purchased at the same time, the DA said.
The investigator paid $365 for six knapsacks, 12 watches, six umbrellas, 12 pencil cases, 12 caps, 18 toy cars, 12 action figures, six toy laptops and six toy guns — many of which bore fake trademarks and were of inferior quality, the DA said.
The same investigator arrived at the warehouse June 11, where he paid $220 for six toy guns, four Angry Bird toys, six train sets, six radio-controlled cars, 12 toy laptops, six action figures, six knapsacks and six yo-yos, the DA said.
Then on June 20, when the investigator returned for yet another prearranged meeting, detectives assigned to the district attorney’s NYPD squad executed a search warrant, where they found cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling of the warehouse, which measures approximately 40 feet by 100 feet, the DA said.
Following their June 21 arraignment, Luo and Chen were released, while Jiang was released only after paying $5,000 bail, according to Brown.
The trio is due back in court July 10.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.