An Alberta counterfeit clothing ring is out of business following a sting by Yorkton police on November 29.
Two people, one male, 35, and one female, 33, are facing charges under Canada’s Copyright Act for manufacturing and selling bogus brand-name garments. The male is also charged with failing to comply with a court order.
Sgt. James Morton, who heads up the Yorkton Provincial General Investigations Section (GIS), explained that the pair would purchase plain garments and doctor them using press-on logo stencils they ordered over the Internet.
He said that to a layperson, the clothing is virtually indistinguishable from legitimate brand name versions. Some of the copyrighted brands seized are Lululemon, Harley Davidson, Monster Energy and the Rolling Stones.
RCMP municipal police in Yorkton got wind of the operation when a concerned citizen phoned the detachment after seeing information on Facebook about a sale going on out of a hotel room, Morton explained.
Municipal officers brought in the GIS and investigators set up surveillance.
“When we saw them loading up their van, we felt we better take them down right then,” Morton said.
Police seized more than $5,000 worth of merchandise. The alleged sellers were released on a recognizance.
Further investigation revealed the couple had been travelling around Saskatchewan for approximately a month setting up shop in cities and towns including Yorkton, North Battleford, Saskatoon, Melfort, Nipawin, Tisdale, Canora and Kamsack.
Morton called the operation “very lucrative” for the alleged perpetrators, estimating a profit margin of nearly 200 per cent. The types of garments included t-shirts, bunny hugs, light jackets and pullover sweaters that would normally retail between $100 and $200. Street prices of the counterfeit goods were in the range of $40 to $60.
Morton said the consequence of allowing illegal goods to flourish can be devastating to local businesses that have to deal with franchise fees, licencing costs and overhead.
“It destroys the economy of a community,” he said.
Summary offences under the Copyright Act carry a maximum fine of $25,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both. If the crown decides to proceed by way of indictment penalties can go up to $1 million and five years.
The accused are scheduled to appear in Yorkton Provincial Court on January 14.