As regulars perused handmade jewelry, discounted bedsheets, slightly-worn stuffed animals and other knick-knacks, dozens of Baltimore County police officers swarmed into a bustling Dundalk flea market Saturday morning to bust vendors allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise.
What appeared to be fleece North Face jackets, UGG Boots, DVDs and CDs were seized by officers serving search warrants on 16 vendors at the Plaza Flea Market on Old North Point Boulevard.
“They just came running in here and told people to put the stuff down. Everyone was going to try and get out the doors,” said Amie Argento, a vendor whose fitness apparel items were not targeted in the department’s raid.
Several officers blocked off exits to the market, while others went to specific tables, keeping the vendors from leaving. Over an intercom, authorities announced that the flea market was closing. Shoppers had to show police at the door photo I.D.s to verify they were not among those targeted by the warrants.
Cpl. Cathy Batton, a police spokeswoman, said the department had been investigating the vendors for months as part of a joint investigation with the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America and others.
The targeted vendors are accused of selling counterfeit brand names such as Nike, Apple, Polo, True Religion, and Timberland to undercover detectives, along with pirated movies and music.
Batton said the investigation targeted specific vendors who rent space in the market, not the flea market owners, who could not be reached Saturday for comment.
The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending against vendors who police believe were selling counterfeit items. None of the suspects were identified. The seized items will be evaluated by trademark experts.
Officer remained at the market for several hours, packing items into paper boxes before loading them onto a Penske moving truck backed up to the market entrance.
Yellow police tape kept a crowd of onlookers and disappointed shoppers from going inside while vendors not involved in the raid streamed out hauling Tupperware boxes, suitcases and trash bags of goods: toiletries, children’s toys — even a miniature motorcycle wheeled out by a merchant.
One vendor from Rosedale, Kevin Cooper, said he hoped to return Sunday but worried the raid might discourage customers from coming back.
He said he started out as a customer 20 years ago but after years of sifting through household items and toys for his kids, he began renting a space in recent years to unload some things.
“We surely hope it doesn’t hurt the enterprise. [The market] has a long history in the community,” he said.
The flea market’s website says lists over 50 vendors at the 100,000-square-foot space knives, pet care items, vintage collectibles, baked goods and snowballs.
In November, Baltimore County police responded to the shopping centerafter a fight erupted between opposing motorcycle gang member. Two members of the Titan Motorcycle Club were charged with assault, while the victim, a 52-year-old man from Dundalk, a member of Demon Souls, non life-threatening injuries after he after he was hit with a rubber mallet.
Both men who were charged are expected to appear in court next month.
Authorities have cracked down in recent years in an effort to curb sales of counterfeited apparel and media. In 2012, undercover federal agents rented a booth at Patapsco Flea Market as part of a 2 1/2-year investigation.
Two years earlier, nine people were indicted in federal court on charges of smuggling counterfeit shoes, handbags and watches manufactured in Asia through the port of Baltimore. That investigation led to the seizure of $250 million worth of fake goods, including Coach handbags and Viagra pills.
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