Bogus Tiffany "Ring" is Cracked
The folks at Tiffany & Co. were as blue as their trademark boxes - until the FBI busted a team of shady peddlers who were hawking knockoff sterling-silver jewelry over the Internet, federal investigators said yesterday.
Following complaints from the prestigious Fifth Avenue emporium and a nine-month investigation, the FBI arrested a Staten Island couple for claiming to sell "pre-owned Tiffany & Co. items . . . acquired from liquidations and/or estate sales," according to a criminal complaint.
In fact, the complaint said, the jewelry they were selling on their Web site, www.starglam.com, were counterfeits that had been supplied by a Chinatown merchant.
During the course of the FBI investigation, agents raided the home of the couple - Yaniv Shamir and Renee Vargas - and seized 600 pieces of sterling-silver jewelry along with boxes of shopping bags bearing the Tiffany logo, the complaint said.
Tiffany experts examined the confiscated goods and found that the markings and labelings were counterfeit, the FBI said.
The value of the 600 items - if they had been authentic - would have been $90,000. Similar counterfeits and Tiffany packaging were found when the FBI visited Enndi Silver, the Chinatown shop of Chee-Soon Tai at 251 Canal St., the complaint said.
Shamir, Vargas and Tai were arraigned last week in Brooklyn federal court on charges of conspiring to infringe on a copyright for personal gain - which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
FBI Special Agent M. Irene Ho, of the agency's Computer Crime and Infrastructure Squad, visited the starglam Web site on several occasions late last year and found more than 20 different Tiffany & Co. copyrighted sterling-silver jewelry designs, according to the complaint.
An FBI undercover agent made several purchases, sending payment to a Staten Island P.O. box that was later traced to Shamir and Vargas.
A lawyer for Shamir and Vargas said his clients believed the merchandise was real.
"They were legitimate business owners who had no idea they were doing something wrong," said attorney Mario Galluicci.
A call to Tai's attorney was not immediately returned.
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