Vendors at the Patapsco Flea Market have a history of allegedly selling counterfeit and pirated merchandise, according to an affidavit, which outlined the latest accusation that resulted in a raid Sunday by federal Homeland Security Investigations special agents.
Capping a 2 1/2-year-long investigation into counterfeit apparel and accessories as well as pirated DVDs and musical recordings, federal investigators confiscated numerous items being sold there.
Federal authorities released few details about the raid, but the affidavit details several undercover operations that found that many of the items sold at the flea market were fake. They included goods with high-end brand names such as Nike, Uggs, Polo, North Face, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
In one instance in which undercover agents bought goods from vendors there, 34 of 38 items were found to be counterfeit. During the same outings on March 31 and April 1, agents bought a set of novelty contact lenses found to be dangerous. The lenses could fuse to the eye causing permanent vision loss, according to the affidavit.
The flea market, located in the 1400 block of West Patapsco Avenue on the southwest side of Baltimore, is owned by Management Inc., whose principal is listed as Joseph Brzuchalski, state records and the affidavit show. A message left with Brzuchalski's residence was not immediately returned.
The market for counterfeit goods and pirated and unlicensed merchandise has become widespread, especially with the explosion of online marketplaces.
It is a practice that deprives companies of revenue as well as debases the quality of brand names, said Ned T. Himmelrich, who heads the intellectual property and technology practice group at Baltimore law firm Gordon Feinblatt LLC. Companies have been working with federal authorities to crack down on the illegal activity, he said.
"It's more than just the one sale or a thousand sales," he said. "It's the ripple effect on the quality of the brand."
In a statement Sunday, Under Armour said: "Individuals who produce and sell counterfeit goods harm the American economy. The reality of counterfeiting is that it's much greater than just buying a knock off item at a discounted price, it's a multibillion dollar a year problem that undermines corporations."
In 1996, Baltimore police charged 30 vendors at the Patapsco Flea Market with selling counterfeit clothing. Authorities confiscated more than $1 million worth of what police alleged was counterfeit Nike, Timberland and Tommy Hilfiger apparel.
Baltimore policy seized counterfeit professional sports league apparel and items with brand names like Nike and Lacoste at the flea market in 2004 and 2006, according to the affidavit.