Private investigators hired to crack down on the sale of counterfeit luxury goods had set up the undercover parking lot sting in Mission Valley after seeing an ad on Craigslist for Rolex watches. They didn’t expect to find a Border Patrol agent hawking the timepieces from the trunk of his car.
“I’m going to lose my job,” the agent, Martin Macias, 31, reportedly said as he was taken into custody after a second undercover buy Aug. 2, according to a search warrant affidavit unsealed last week.
Macias was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a state charge of selling counterfeit goods and released on $10,000 bail. No state charges have been filed for prosecution, though, and the case is apparently being considered for federal charges of trafficking counterfeit goods, according to the affidavit filed in San Diego federal court.
Macias declined to discuss the case when reached by phone Tuesday. His employment status was unknown.
The investigation was launched by Investigative Consultants, a firm based in Torrance that represents about 200 brands by helping them detect counterfeit goods and protect their trademarks.
On May 18, one of the firm’s private investigators found a Craigslist ad for Rolex watches for sale and reached out. Someone named Carlos said he’d meet her at the Target parking lot in Mission Valley. On May 25, the day of the meeting, a man named Martin texted her saying he’d be there instead and to look for his white Volkswagen.
The investigator and a partner met Martin, later determined to be Macias, and he showed them a display case in the trunk of his car filled with four Audemars Piguet watches, four Cartier watches and six Rolex watches, the affidavit said.
Macias confirmed the watches were fake and each was worth $320. He said Carlos supplied him with the watches and that he could provide large quantities at wholesale prices, the affidavit said.
The investigator bought a Rolex for $320, then passed the case on to the Sheriff’s Department’s Border Crimes Suppression Team. As one of the detectives reviewed the evidence and Volkswagen records, he discovered the seller might be a Border Patrol agent.
The investigator set up another meeting, and Martin said he had five Rolexes for sale. They agreed to meet Aug. 2 at Target again, but he changed the location to the Babies R Us parking lot in Chula Vista.
The investigator’s partner met Macias this time and was shown a case of watches on the front seat of Macias’ black Chevrolet pickup: six Audemars Piguets, four Rolexes, two Hublots, one Armani and one child’s Casio, the affidavit said.
During the sale, sheriff’s detectives moved in to arrest Macias.
Macias explained to a sheriff’s detective that a friend who lives in Mexico obtains the watches from an unknown source for about $110 each and advertises them on websites such as Craigslist and Offer Up. Because the friend doesn’t come to the U.S., he asked Macias to deliver the watches to buyers.
Macias said his only sales were to the undercover investigators. He said he planned to collect about $250, the affidavit said.
He further admitted he knew what he was doing was illegal but likened it to running a red light, the court document said.
A search of Macias’ home did not yield other counterfeit goods.
The watches, if genuine, would sell from $10,000 to $79,000, experts said.
Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.