Indianapolis - An investigation into knockoff bags and purses is prompting some to take action and protect themselves from federal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
Cathy Skinner, administrator for Ladies Purses and Jewelry Only Frankfort, closed the online yard sale after seeing Call 6 investigator Kara Kenney’s story, specifically warnings from the federal government that selling counterfeits is illegal.
“I should’ve known the law before I set up the page,” Skinner said.
Skinner said some people on the Facebook yard sale were selling counterfeit items, such as knockoff Coach purses.
“I don’t want to take the chance,” said Skinner. “I don’t want to go to jail. It’s scary, very scary.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office told RTV6 site administrators can be held liable for counterfeit selling on their website.
The feds have traditionally focused on store fronts, but Facebook and other sites could soon be their next target.
“Selling counterfeit items is illegal, and you could go to jail,” said Gary Woolf, resident agent in charge of Indianapolis' Homeland Security Investigations, the federal agency that investigates counterfeit bags. “The person you’re selling to could be an undercover police officer, undercover federal agent, you never know.”
“It’s absolutely a possibility,” said Brad Shepard, Assistant U.S. Attorney. “We could be going after anyone who violates the law.”
Cathy Skinner is not alone in taking action.
The Camby IN Community Online Yard Sale mentioned in the Call 6 Investigation has since been deleted.
Intellectual property expert Brad Harper’s firm, Continental Enterprises , works with more than 100 companies.
“We have teams of people who that's all they do is look at those sites day after day for our clients products,” said Harper. “If you can’t verify the authenticity of the handbags, that’s a good approach (to delete the page).”
Harper said people who sell counterfeit products can face cease and desist letters and civil lawsuits.
“It costs jobs in the United States and around the world,” Harper said. These people are not good people, and a lot of this breeds crime.”
Harper said counterfeiting also results in child labor and a loss of tax revenue that impacts Hoosiers.
“The tax revenue is lost because the buyer, seller and manufacturer either pay no taxes or less taxes than they would for the authentic product,” Harper said.
Cathy Skinner said many people were upset with her decision to close the Facebook purse site, but she said they can continue to break the law, but not on her page.
“Most of them said there’s nothing wrong with it,” Skinner said. “But if it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
The punishment for selling counterfeits is up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine.