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Criminals, Terrorists Often Have Ties to Counterfeit Goods



Counterfeit designer clothing, medicines and other products are made and sold around the world. American investigators say the counterfeit goods industry is a bigger business than the illegal drug trade. And they say anyone buying such goods could be providing support to criminal activities. Counterfeit goods may look like the real thing. But they are copies made without the approval of the business or individual with rights to the original product. Many fake goods from East Asia enter the United States through the port of Los Angeles, California. People looking for low prices on goods go to a part of downtown Los Angeles called Santee Alley. It is a place where counterfeit goods are sold. Clothing, sunglasses, watches and toys fill the many small stores in the area.

Anita Grey has been going to Santee Alley for years. She says she would never buy fake designer products. She says she has seen them there, although not recently.Investigator Kris Buckner says there is a reason people do not see counterfeit goods openly displayed at Santee Alley anymore: police have repeatedly raided stores that carry fake designer goods. As a result, people who sell them are much more careful. Kris Buckner says sellers will offer the fake goods to buyers, and take them to a storage area where the goods are hidden.

An estimated $500 billion is spent on counterfeit goods every year. Kris Buckner notes that local street gangs, organized crime groups and even terrorists are involved in counterfeiting. At the port of Los Angeles, police seize counterfeit clothing, prescription medications, electronics and cigarettes. Investigators say large amounts of the fake and stolen designer products come from China and enter American ports in large shipping containers. More than 14 million shipping containers arrive in Los Angeles every year. Police are able to inspect less than one percent of them.

Police say there are ways to tell if a product is counterfeit. Look at the kind of store where the product is sold, and whether the price seems too low. If it is, it is probably a fake.

For VOA Special English, I'm Mario Ritter. To read, listen and learn English, go to voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find our captioned videos at the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 13Jul2012)

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