As customers bought fancy mops, saltwater taffy and telescoping flagpoles, two undercover State Highway Patrol troopers homed in on Sandy's Fragrances in the Bricker Building at the Ohio State Fair.
As customers bought fancy mops, saltwater taffy and telescoping flagpoles, two undercover State Highway Patrol troopers homed in on Sandy’s Fragrances in the Bricker Building at the Ohio State Fair.
One trooper asked for Marc Jacobs Daisy fragrance and, $60 later, walked away with a 3.4-ounce bottle.
Soon, that fragrance and another purchased by the troopers were on their way to a perfume tester, who said both were fakes.
The 2013 fair ended on Aug. 4, but the problem of counterfeit perfume is ongoing nationwide.
“It’s big business,” said Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition in Washington. “Counterfeiting in general is a $650 billion industry worldwide.”
In 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized $51 million worth of fake perfume coming into the country. In Los Angeles alone, more than a million bottles worth nearly $8 million were confiscated that year.
Barchiesi said the fake fragrances are made mostly in China and sold at flea markets, online and by vendors at big events such as the fair.
In November, state troopers found $75,000 worth of knockoff perfumes in a cargo van on the Ohio Turnpike near Oberlin. Drug-sniffing dogs alerted troopers to nearly 1,500 bottles of counterfeit perfume and cologne.
In March, troopers found 204 bottles in a cargo van in Youngstown, along with knockoffs of designer sunglasses and clothes.
Though state-fair officials check to make sure vendors are licensed, “there are always scam artists out there,” assistant fair manager Luis Perez said.
“It’s not a common problem, but it’s not unseen in our industry.”
A tip prompted troopers to make the undercover buys at the state-fair booth. Two Texas men have been charged with trademark counterfeiting, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
During a search of the booth, investigators found 3,786 bottles of perfume and cologne with labels such as Chanel, Calvin Klein and Britney Spears.
Not all of the fragrances are counterfeit, said Eric Wolf, an investigator with the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Testing will determine which ones are.
“Each type and brand and size has to be evaluated separately,” he said. “Sometimes sellers will do a bait and switch, putting out a real bottle for customers to try and then selling them the fake.”
A second perfume vendor at the fair was checked, and his products were genuine, Wolf said.
Tests have shown that fake fragrances sometimes contain urine, carcinogenic materials and high amounts of alcohol, Barchiesi said.
Consumers, he said, should be wary of buying fragrance at below-market prices, particularly from free-standing vendors or online. If the wrapping doesn’t look right or words are misspelled on the label, it’s probably counterfeit, he said.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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