More than $10 million in counterfeit iPods, iPhones and other items have been seized from a sophisticated downtown warehouse operation in a theft case begun by Los Angeles Port Police.
“This was a well-funded operation, and the counterfeits looked very authentic,” said Ron Boyd, chief of the approximately 200-member L.A. Port Police force, adding that a buyer might not have noticed anything awry until he or she got home and tried to hook up with iTunes.
Investigators said they thought that the shipment was designed to get Apple Inc. lookalike products into the market during the recent buzz over the Consumer Electronics Show. Some of the products were designed to look like older Apple products, such as iPod Nanos without touch screens, which remain popular with some consumers.
The goods, which will be displayed at a news conference Monday, were shipped from Asia, Boyd said.
The case stems from a stolen-cargo investigation that led Los Angeles Port Police to several downtown Los Angeles and Vernon locations in December and January.
During searches of the locations, Port Police discovered counterfeit products with an estimated street value of more than $1.4 million; stolen electronics, toys and blankets worth about $2.5 million; and bank account receipts that indicate the operation generated more than $7 million in profits.
Boyd said the case highlighted the lengths counterfeiters go to in hiding their activities: The fakes arrived as parts meant to be reassembled and labeled before being sold.
Los Angeles residents Bahram Zahab, 45, and his brother Edward Zahab, 40, have been arrested. Edward Zahab has been charged with three felony counts of the sale of counterfeit goods. Bahram Zahab has been charged with one felony count of the same crime.
Boyd said the investigation was ongoing and included the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Also involved were the Border Enforcement Security Task Force, composed of federal, state and local agencies; the California Highway Patrol’s Cargo Theft Interdiction Program; and the Vernon Police Department.
“Our layered, multi-agency approach to security and theft investigations led to success,” Boyd said. “We’re proud of the teamwork that happens on a continuous basis to thwart consumer fraud, keep our port safe and enable our agencies to pursue cases to fruition and criminal prosecution.”
The Port of Los Angeles and the neighboring Port of Long Beach make up the nation’s busiest harbor for trade with Asia.