July 15, 2008

Downtown raids uncover fake merchandise

Counterfeit goods seized
By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 07/15/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were busy Monday seizing suspected counterfeit purses from shops in Downtown El Paso and in a separate operation in Fort Bliss.

On Monday morning, ICE agents served two search warrants, seizing numerous suspected counterfeit bags, purses and belts at La Coqueta, 306 S. El Paso, and Joeys, 200 E. San Antonio, said Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for ICE.

"There is a variety of things seized (Monday) ... belts to purses. A great number of them," Pruneda said.

Agents could be seen going into the shops, which were sealed off with yellow crime-scene tape. Merchandise was loaded into rental cargo trucks. The amount of items seized was not revealed.

The seizures are part of an ongoing investigation into counterfeit name-brand goods, Pruneda said. There have been no arrests.

Pruneda said she was not authorized to reveal whether any other raids were taking place or would take place.

Last May, two Downtown El Paso merchants, Ali Mahmoud el-Reda and his cousin, Akil Moussa el Reda, were charged by ICE investigators in connection with selling counterfeit brand-name clothing after agents seized more than $500,000 in merchandise at New York Fashions, 210 S. Mesa, and, Milano, 219 E. San Antonio, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had said.
Pruneda also confirmed that ICE agents on Monday morning took part in an "enforcement activity" in Fort Bliss along with military police. No details of the operation on the Army post were released by ICE or the military.

Last September, a dozen construction workers were detained at Fort Bliss because they were in the country illegally or didn't have proper work permits, officials had said. The 12 were detained after military police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents interviewed 335 workers at housing construction sites at Fort Bliss and at Biggs Army Airfield.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com;546-6102.

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