FORT MYERS, Fla. - In this tough economy many people are looking for good deals on gifts. But before you consider buying a designer knockoff, consider this: what you put under the tree could actually be a gift for terrorists.
You've made your list and checked it twice. Now you're looking for a present for those who've been nice and it may be tempting to buy some fake luxury items. Just go online and you can find site after site boasting fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci, even Prada handbags. But the deals are not just online. Call for Action went undercover at an area flea market and spotted fakes. Everything from iPhone covers to purses, all sitting for sale in plain view.
"Intellectual property right investigations, IPR, is one of our bread and butter," says Homeland Security Investigator, Deputy Special Agent, Michael Masto. "In the last year or so or going back a year, our agency has investigated close to 1500 cases nationwide. IPR-type investigations-- it's a multi-multi-million dollar industry and it's global."
Masto showed us all kinds of items his office has confiscated from belts, to purses, to perfume. Masto says it's important for the government to crack down on those who sell fake goods.
"It's a three fold type of thing. First of all, it's costing American jobs plain and simple. Second, the legitimate proceeds that would be going to the companies manufacturing these goods are diverted to criminal organizations. And thirdly, it's a health and safety type issue-- everything from counterfeit pharmaceuticals on the market to products that are substandard that are going into all sorts of applications," he explained.
We asked Masto if purchasing a fake Gucci or fake Prada purse could be giving money to terrorism and he said, "you could. By buying any sort of counterfeit product you are perpetuating and fueling the opportunity for criminal enterprises to succeed... we find terrorist organizations. We have cases on a national basis where by some of these proceeds are funneled back into terrorist organizations."
So before you wrap up a piece of low-cost luxury this season, make sure it's not coming at a higher price.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators say when you shop, make sure you're buying from a legitimate store or website and, as always, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.