by Robert E. Kessler
May 30, 2008
Careful with those Trojan brand condoms from the discount store. They may not be the real thing.
Same with the Barbie doll and the Louis Vuitton handbag.
In raids in the metropolitan area yesterday, federal agents arrested at least eight people and charged them with heading a counterfeit products ring. Authorities say the ring has been smuggling into the country and then distributing massive quantities of fake brand-name goods manufactured in China, including Apple iPods, Major League Baseball and National Football League caps and Marvel comic books.
The counterfeits, which included millions of the phony Trojans, were sold for the past three years mainly in small discount stores in the area, as well as elsewhere in the country, including Texas and Virginia, according to court documents.
A spokeswoman for Church and Dwight, the company that manufactures the legitimate Trojan condoms in the United States, declined to comment on whether the counterfeit Chinese condoms could fail to prevent pregnancies or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
But a source familiar with the federal investigation said that while the counterfeit condoms were of inferior quality, samples had been tested and they were no riskier to use than legitimate ones.
The packaging of the Chinese condoms is almost identical to the legitimate ones, except that the counterfeit packaging is plastic, while the legitimate product is packaged in aluminum foil, said another source familiar with the investigation. "They [the counterfeiters] spent all their money on printing," said the source.
One of the raids yesterday was carried out by both agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Food and Drug Administration at 18-28 Troutman St. in Ridgewood, Queens - a building used by the ZX Trading Co.
Two of the owners of ZX Trading - Lin Hu and her brother, Jian Hu - were among those arrested on charges of selling counterfeit goods.
They were arraigned without entering a plea before U.S. Magistrate Michael Orenstein in the federal court in Central Islip. He released them pending future appearances. Their attorney, Todd Greenberg of Forest Hills, said they were both not guilty.
The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, Charles Kelly, declined to comment.
Those arrested face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
NOT KEEPING IT REAL
What's real? According to federal authorities, not some of the following products from China:
Millions of Trojan brand condoms
Louis Vuitton handbags
Caps for Major League Baseball and National Football League teams
Marvel comic books