MYRTLE BEACH — Authorities say a raid that netted thousands of dollars in counterfeit merchandise from businesses in Myrtle Beach likely is the tip of the iceberg in such goods sold in the area.
Myrtle Beach police will continue to monitor all businesses to make sure counterfeit goods are not being sold, after officers arrested three business owners last month on charges related to selling the items.
Police raided the businesses on May 30, in what officials said Monday was the first major counterfeit merchandise bust in Myrtle Beach in several years, and resulted in the seizure of $275,000 worth of counterfeit goods. The investigation was launched following complaints from the trademark owners, which included Major League Baseball, Nike, Hello Kitty, Warner Brothers, John Deere, Casio and others.
Leon Koretzky, 60, owner of Grasshopper at 1103 Ocean Boulevard, and David Ohana, 38, owner of Nothing Over $7.95 at 6307 North Kings Highway, are charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods. Beki Boutboul, 54, of Best for Less at 1103 North Ocean Boulevard, is charged with distribution of counterfeit goods.
Sgt. Michael Curry, with Myrtle Beach police’s waterfront division, said other stores that had small amounts of fake merchandise voluntarily surrendered goods and were not charged. The investigation did not extend outside Myrtle Beach city limits.
Curry said several stores in the area play by the rules.
That’s where officials said the crime hurts.
“It’s not a victimless crime,” said Secretary of State Mark Hammond.
He said the misconception about selling counterfeit goods is that its just someone trying to make an extra money on the weekend or from their home.
“That couldn’t be further from the case,” Hammond said. “This is big business, its a billion dollar business.”
He said it’s stealing from legitimate businesses and cheating consumers.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall said his department doesn’t receive many complaints about the sale of counterfeit items, but it’s still a crime taken seriously.
He said a lot of the businesses selling the items cater to tourists, which may be why few customer complaints are received.
“Like a lot of people they might take them home, not realizing fully that it might be counterfeit and [when it] falls apart [thinks], ‘Oh well, it’s something I took home from my vacation.’”
The theft doesn’t just hit the companies with registered marks, Hammond said, it’s affecting the state’s economy too.
“Legitimate business, especially our small businesses which drive the economy here in South Carolina, shouldn’t have to compete against people selling that fake merchandise,” he said.
Hammond wasn’t sure how much the counterfeiters in Myrtle Beach were undercutting those selling the apparel legally because it depends on more than just price but how many people come through the retail outlets.
Is it real?
Picking out a counterfeit good from a real one may not be obvious when taking a quick glance, but there are a few tricks.
Quality is a key, Hammond said. The fake goods likely don’t meet the high quality standards of the true brand name products.
In general, he said if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
One of the counterfeit items contained in evidence had a neon green Fox Racing emblem printed on a black Hanes t-shirt, which should be an immediate red flag for consumers, police said. Others, had labels such as Monster Energy Drink superimposed over the words “Myrtle Beach.” Curry said the companies simply don’t make those.
Another clue, Hammond said, is in the sales pitch. If it’s sold as “flawed” or “second-hand” it’s probably fake.
“These companies that sell these high end merchandise destroy that [defective item] before making a second batch or selling it,” he said.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.