Two brothers from Nassau County face counterfeiting charges after officials found more than $2 million of fake health and beauty products in a raid, reported the Nassau County District Attorney’s office Friday.
Pardeep Malik, 59, of Plainview, and Hamant Mullick, 60, of Franklin Square, were arraigned on felony charges after officials raided their five operations centers, said the DA.
The two were each charged with three counts of first-degree trademark counterfeiting and one count of second-degree trademark counterfeiting.
Authorities were tipped off to the scheme by Valley Stream Fire Department officials, who were following up on an April fire, said the DA. After discovering what they felt was a counterfeiting operation, they alerted Nassau County Fire Marshals, who then sent samples to manufacturers to verify their authenticity.
The products were confirmed as fakes by manufacturers, who claimed the operation was the biggest operation in the country.
Authorities executed search warrants at five locations in Franklin Square, Oceanside, Freeport, and Valley Stream and found four tractor trailers full of counterfeit products, said the DA. The brothers had manufactured fake products like ChapStick, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Vicks VapoRub, Vicks Inhalers, Vaseline, and Always sanitary pads.
Other over-the-counter cold medicines and painkillers were also discovered in the defendants’ Valley Stream facility but investigators have not found any manufacturing equipment on the premises.
The two were found to be selling the phony products to distributors, who sent the goods to retailers in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Investigators are trying to determine if products made it even further.
"Health and beauty products like lip balms, oils, shampoos and inhalers are highly regulated in order to protect consumers, but these defendants are charged with going around those protections and stealing the brands of major corporations that comply with the law," said NCDA Kathleen Rice. "These actions can endanger the public and local and federal officials, as well as industry manufacturers, are working hard to protect the public in this case."
Rice said the investigation is ongoing to determine the scope of collaborators, where products were sold, and how much was made in the scam.
“We encourage consumers to be cautious about buying branded goods that look suspicious, or from outlets that are unfamiliar - buy only from sources that are well known and trusted,” said Chris Vuturo, a spokesman for Proctor and Gamble, adding the company “applauds the actions of Nassau County law enforement in shutting down this operation.”
The brothers will return to court March 11.
If anyone suspects a product they have purchased is a counterfeit, they are urged to call the manufacturer and, in Nassau County, the Economic Crimes Bureau at 516-571-3505.
Five tips to identify fake products, according to the DA:
1. First look for obvious signs - a strange picture on the package, strange languages for your locale, strange colors, or strange typeface.
2. If the illegitimate product is more sophisticated, however, it can be hard to tell from looking. The next best way is to consider the price paid. If the price was atypically low, without any kind of coupon or special promotion, then it may be illegitimate.
3. Counterfeit products will not have the same quality or consistency of real products.
4. Also look at the expiration date, as this can be another indicator of a fake.
5. Try to shop at established and trusted stores, which are highly likely to be connected to legitimate supply chains.