US police indict five firms for fake toy import racket

Buzz Lightyear figureUS police have charged five individuals and corporations with importing potentially hazardous counterfeit toys from China.

Police have gathered evidence on the five importers since 2005, over which time officials have seized 33 of their imports. Nearly half the toy shipments allegedly contained excessive lead or other hazards, while the rest violated copyright.

The individuals allegedly tried to stay one step ahead. "They allegedly retooled their operations many times in order to avoid detection, and despite repeated citations by the authorities, they continued to peddle counterfeit toys," assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said.

Evasive actions alleged in the indictments include starting up a new toy import business when a lot of seizures built up against the current company. Operating under a new business name was an attempt to buy a little time to import toys without tight police oversight.

Each is now charged with importing toys that are hazardous or infringe on copyrights, as well as smuggling and money laundering. The cases against the five allege the imported toys were sold as retail and wholesale from premises in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.

Brands affected by the counterfeiting include Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, Betty Boop, Spiderman, Mickey Mouse and Pokemon.

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