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U.S. customs agents bust pirated shipment of shades at Pembin

PEMNINA, N.D. - The future's not bright for a load of shady shades seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Pembina, N.D.

The counterfeit sunglasses, worth $122,043 on the retail market to unaware customers, will be destroyed, to protect the value of authentic brands, said Chris Misson, spokesman for the Pembina customs office.

"It's not common for us to see this kind of thing," he said.

But it's part of a growing crime problem in a shrinking world involving piracy, counterfeiting, and the theft of intellectual property. Usually it's someone in China or South Korea manufacturing cheap fake versions of expensive purses, music and movie CDs, computer games, drugs, cigarettes, clothing and even sunglasses.

Customs is charged with stopping the importation counterfeit goods, which is a multibillion-dollar business ripping off the intellectual property rights of legitimate businesses, Misson said.

The work usually is good enough that the counterfeit versions can sell as genuine Versace or Gucci or Spielberg products for big bucks.

Some published reports say 80 percent of the pirated counterfeit goods are made in China and about 10 percent in South Korea.

No charges

On May 18, customs officers in Pembina noted a shipment of sunglasses coming out of Canada headed for a corporation in the United States. Misson said he wasn't able Tuesday to find the information on what country the shipment originated from. And he wouldn't say exactly where it was headed, except it wasn't anywhere in North Dakota or Minnesota.

There were about 360 pairs of sunglasses, the kind of designer brand sunglasses that cost hundreds of dollars each.


Misson said the shipment was a mix of genuine and fake designer sunglasses: 356 pairs of Dolce & Gabbana shades and three pairs of Versace shades mixed in with genuine branded shades. The fake shades would have sold for an average $340 a pair, bringing the total illegal take to $122,043.

"It was officers' intuition," Misson said about the shipment looking hinky.

Officers seized the shipment and sent information about the sunglasses, including photographs, to trained customs experts, who detected the fakes.

Proving the goods were counterfeit took time, which is why he didn't release any information about the seizure until Tuesday, Misson said.

He didn't know why the shipment included real designer sunglasses.

The truck driver was cleared of any wrongdoing, Misson said. "He had no idea it was counterfeit, he was just the carrier."


It's also unlikely any criminal charges will result, because those who produced and shipped the counterfeit goods are in another country and U.S. authorities can't reach them for such a crime. The corporation slated to receive the sunglasses also appears to have been a potential victim, Misson said.

Customs will have to destroy the sunglasses instead of auctioning off or giving away pirated eyewear, no matter how cool. That would still damage to the owners of the patent, copyright and/or trademark involved in such goods.

"They are using a real brand and taking revenue from someone else," Misson said.