In an unprecedented crackdown on counterfeit goods, federal and local law enforcement agencies have unearthed the largest operation in US history in Hell’s Kitchen. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the seizure of over $1 billion in fake luxury items stored at Gotham Mini Storage.
The raid — which W42ST reported on back in October — was a joint effort by Homeland Security Investigations and the NYPD. The operation led to the arrest of two men, Adama Sow, 38, of Queens, and Abdulai Jalloh (aka Troy Banks), 48, of Manhattan. They are charged with running this black-market empire from January through October, trafficking an array of counterfeit designer goods.
The storage facility on 10th Avenue and W39th Street, typically a hub for personal storage needs for Hell’s Kitchen neighbors, was transformed into a distribution center for phony high-end products. “The defendants used a Manhattan storage facility as a distribution center for massive amounts of knock-off designer goods,” US Attorney Damian Williams stated. “The seizures announced today consist of merchandise with over a billion dollars in estimated retail value, the largest-ever seizure of counterfeit goods in US history.”
Approximately 219,000 counterfeit items were recovered, including handbags, shoes, clothes and accessories, with a total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of around $1.03 billion. Photos released by the US Attorney’s Office depict storage units overflowing with counterfeit goods, from high-end handbags of every color and design to clothes hanging off pipes in cramped spaces. Some rooms were filled with unopened boxes on pallets, illustrating the size of the operation.
Gotham Mini Storage is a state-of-the-art, multi-story self-storage facility that opened its doors in 2013. The facility was converted from an existing industrial building built in the 1920s as a parking garage. It has 2,000 individual storage units across 140,000 square feet.
Sow and Jalloh’s alleged operation not only represents a significant bust in terms of value but also highlights the complex nature of modern-day counterfeit trafficking. “The trafficking of counterfeit goods is anything but a victimless crime,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban emphasized. “It harms legitimate businesses, governments and consumers.”
If convicted, Sow and Jalloh could face up to 10 years in prison. The charges are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.