A joint investigation involving eight law enforcement agencies as well as private sector groups and companies has resulted in the arrest of 11 people and the seizure of more than $3 million in knock-off goods.
Det. Robert Whalen of 55 Division’s Major Crime Unit and Det. Const. Andrea Chedes gave members of the media a tour of the seized goods Monday morning.
Some of the most notable knock-offs include money, identification, electronics, prescription drugs, cosmetics, DVDs, software and toys as well as the usual luxury handbags, footwear and clothing.
“It is one of the largest seizures in the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) history,” Staff. Insp. Bryce Evans of the Financial Crimes Unit said of Project Consumer Safety, which targeted businesses in Toronto, and Peel and York regions allegedly selling counterfeit goods that posed potential hazards to the public, including children.
Police executed several search warrants Thursday, Nov. 29 at a number of locations throughout the GTA.
Evans said during the Christmas season, especially, there is a significant increase in knock-offs sold in retail stores and online, adding often the general public is unaware the items they’ve purchased are fake and could be harmful to their health and safety.
“The fact is that counterfeit products available today are much more diverse and range from luxury items like designer clothing, handbags, health and beauty products, medication, children’s toys, cigarette, cigars, auto parts and electronic goods,” he said, adding the majority of these unregulated goods come in direct contact with consumers’ skin, hair, facial area, eyes and are also being ingested.
Police are especially concerned as those who produce counterfeit goods invest zero dollars in research and development and do not comply with any safety regulations or standards.
Evans said tests have found a down jacket to contain bacteria, mildew and chicken parts as well as dog fur used as the trim around the hood.
Some of the dyes used in children’s toys have also been found to contain traces of urine.
“Keep in mind all counterfeit goods are dangerous,” Insp. Todd Gilmore, the officer in charge of the RCMP’s Toronto North Detachment and the GTA Federal Enforcement Section, said earlier this week during the press conference at TPS headquarters, adding the public is safer because of the seizure.
He also pointed to the ongoing negative impacts on legitimate Canadian businesses and jobs as a result of the sale of counterfeit goods, the majority of which come from China.
Profits from counterfeiting have also been linked to organized criminal and terrorist activities, Gilmore said.
The 11 accused, who are facing a total of 47 charges, have a Jan. 17 court date.