Police, PIs score on bogus trail 5 arrested in sale of counterfeit goods ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

July 14, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

It would be a shame, the detective said, if a little kid paid good money for an All-Star T-shirt and it turned to rags in the washing machine because it was counterfeit.

Not to mention the millions of dollars Major League Baseball loses when vendors sell illegal merchandise emblazoned with pirated trademarks.

That's why teams of Baltimore police officers, private detectives and a lawyer working for Major League Baseball were roaming sidewalks and parking lots around Camden Yards before and after last night's game.

A recent ordinance passed by the Baltimore City Council made the sale of forged trademarks a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine, 12 months in jail, or both.

"Counterfeiting trademarks is a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States," said Chuck Jarrett, a baseball attorney who specializes in identifying bogus logos. "We lose $20 to $100 million in retail sales every year because of it."

Jarrett was working with private investigators from an Alexandria, Va., firm, Merrifield Associates.

Company representatives determine if a souvenir is counterfeit, and a trio of city police officers assigned to the detail can arrest the suspects or issue a criminal summons.

By the first pitch last night, five persons had been arrested and eight were given summonses.

The investigation began Thursday when fliers were distributed around the stadium warning vendors that merchandise would be closely inspected. On Friday, about 80 vendors were told about the operation, and police took 350 T-shirts from a vendor at the corner of Paca Street and Washington Boulevard. By last night, about 3,000 shirts had been taken.

"A lot of people don't know or don't care that it's counterfeit. They just want to show that they were here," said Michael Mills, an investigator with the Merrifield group. "What you'll pay $15 to $20 for inside the park, people can get for $5 to $15 from an [illegal] vendor."

Asked if helping to save Major League Baseball money in lost trademark revenues was an appropriate use of city police, Jarrett said: "This isn't the worst crime in the world. But we're talking about a lot of money."

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