Levi's Nabs Counterfeiters

San Francisco–based denim giant Levi Strauss & Company said it would file charges against four suspects who were arrested after a two-year investigation into a multi-state counterfeiting scheme, which uncovered more than 1,600 pairs of fake Levi’s jeans, worth $65,000.

Authorities said four people—two men and two women— were arrested on Nov. 20 in Corona, Calif., for counterfeiting the registered trademark. Each will stand charges for allegedly buying jeans in Mexico and smuggling them into the country, where imitation brand labels were applied to the jeans and then sold to swap meet vendors in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and, possibly, Florida.

According to Sgt. Jerry Rodriguez of the Corona Police Department, roughly 1,300 pairs of jeans were found in cupboards, the trunks of cars, closets and under beds, and another 357 pairs were hidden nearby at a storage unit. Rodriguez said the suspects, who were released on $5,000 bail, will be arraigned on Dec. 19.

Ernest Wheale, director of investigation for Levi’s, said the company has seen a slight increase this year in counterfeit products, which are usually seized by authorities and then later destroyed.

He said the company is in the midst of nationwide investigations into counterfeit products sold on the black market, where a fake pair of Levi’s can be bought for as little as $4 to $6 per pair and then sold for around $17 at flea markets.

“This is just one case in dozens that we are investigating worldwide,” he said. “It’s really very simple to make the labels. Any printer will do it. And to the casual observer, it looks real.”