Turning Shoppers Into Criminals - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Turning Shoppers Into Criminals

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It's never been done before in this country but, if it happens, travelers to New York City will have to be extra careful when they go out shopping. Consider this a warning to any bargain hunters visiting the Big Apple. Authorities there have been cracking down on merchants who sell fake designer duds for years. Up until now, the focus of such law enforcement has been on catching the sellers. But that may soon change.

A bill now working its way through the city council would punish customers caught buying counterfeits. And we're not talking about a little slap on the wrist here folks. If passed, the legislation would fine offenders up to $1,000 or up to a year in prison! I'm not kidding! This would be the first law of its kind in the nation to actually criminalize the purchase of counterfeits.

Apparently counterfeits are big business in NYC depriving the city of at least one billion dollars in tax revenues a year. What's more, the counterfeit trade has been linked to child labor and even the funding of organized crime and terror groups.

OK, I get it. Selling counterfeits is wrong. Buying something you know is counterfeit is also wrong. Companies that produce the real deal products lose billions of dollars a year because of those who fraudulently produce these knockoffs and sell them for a fraction of what the legitimate merchandise would sell for. But a year behind bars sounds unreasonably harsh. And critics see all kinds of problems with trying to enforce such a law, including proving that the shopper was aware or should have been aware that the item he or she was buying was a fake.

But if you think a $1,000 dollar fine or a year in the pokey is extreme, consider this. Internationally, the laws are even tougher. For example, in France, shoppers risk fines of up to half a million U-S dollars and three years in prison for possession of a counterfeit item! That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "buyer beware."

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