Mayor Bloomberg, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement Kathleen McGee today announced the results of the City’s month long investigation into a multi-story privately owned rental storage facility at 2941 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. At the location, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement and the NYPD’s 75th Precinct seized approximately 44,000 counterfeit and unlicensed movie DVDs and music CDs, with an estimated trademark value of over $550,000 – the amount of unearned revenue for the entertainment industry.
The seizure marks the first-ever action taken by the City against owners and users of self-storage facilities who illegally store, distribute and sell counterfeit goods. In an accompanying lawsuit, the City also filed a nuisance abatement court action to prevent recurrence of counterfeit activities at the illegally-used storage units.
“The sale of counterfeit goods deprives artists, designers and all who work in their industry of paychecks, and it cheats New Yorkers of quality goods,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By taking action against facilities where counterfeit goods are stored, we’re preventing the distribution of thousands of illegal goods before they hit city streets. When it comes to counterfeiting we all lose, and these results are proof the City will continue to lead the way when it comes to stopping counterfeiters and protecting trademarked and intellectual property.”
“Counterfeit goods not only rob legitimate businesses of customers, but defraud purchasers with poorly-made items,” said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. “Counterfeiting is often built on child labor, with ties to illegal enterprises including money laundering. Today we’re sending a message to counterfeit operators throughout the City that no matter where you are, we are going to shut you down.”
“For far too long, mini-storage facilities in New York City have harbored illegal activity, including the warehousing and sale of counterfeit trademarked goods,” said Office of Special Enforcement Director McGee. “This action should signal to owners and tenants alike that there is no safe harbor for illegal goods.”
“When a counterfeit DVD is bought instead of the real deal, it takes money away from the pensions and wages of the hard-working New Yorkers who make their living working behind the scenes in our local entertainment industry,” said Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver. “Counterfeit goods have no place in New York City, and we remain committed to raising public awareness to stop piracy and to remind everyone that it is not a victimless crime.”
The Office of Special Enforcement completed two undercover purchases, buying approximately 100 counterfeit and unlicensed DVDs and CDs, from self-storage renter Barry Boubacar, who used three rooms in the facility at 2941 Atlantic Avenue. On Tuesday, the Office of Special Enforcement along with members of the 75th Precinct and NYPD Emergency Service executed a search warrant that uncovered:
An estimated 44,000 counterfeit and unauthorized DVDs and CDs – with a industry value of more than $550,000;
Movies including “Safe House,” “The Hunger Games,” “We Bought a Zoo,” “21 Jump Street” and “The Avengers;”
Music from artists such as Lady Gaga, Macy Gray, J. Cole, Rihanna and Pit Bull.
As part of its ongoing efforts to combat counterfeiting, the City has expanded its scope by targeting storage facilities and preventing the flow of trademarked and unlicensed goods before they reach illegal retailers in the city. At the culmination of the investigation, the NYPD yesterday arrested Mr. Boubacar, 49, for felony trademark counterfeiting – among other charges – for his role in operating the counterfeiting business in three units of the Brooklyn storage facility. The Office of Special Enforcement also filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary closing and restraining order – for the first time in City history against storage facilities – to prevent any chance of recurrence at the illegally operated units.
Created in December 2006 through an Executive Order by Mayor Bloomberg, the Office of Special Enforcement replaced the former Office of Midtown Enforcement and expanded its activities to all five boroughs. The Office of Special Enforcement is responsible for coordinating enforcement efforts across City agencies to address quality of life issues related to notorious adult use locations, lawless clubs, trademark counterfeiting bazaars and illegal conversions of apartment buildings into hotels.
Since 2003, the Office of Special Enforcement and its predecessor have shut down over 60 counterfeiting locations, seized approximately $52 million in knock-off goods and forced building owners and counterfeiters to pay over $3.2 million in fines for lost revenue to the people of New York City.