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S.I. couple arrested in Ridgewood gang hat bust

A Staten Island couple was arrested last week after police raided a Ridgewood warehouse where the duo allegedly operated a major smuggling and counterfeiting business and sold baseball caps adorned with gang colors, the Brooklyn district attorney said.

Jianfeng Guo, 29, and his girlfriend, Saile Gao, 27, both from Staten Island, were charged July 2 with numerous counts of trademark counterfeiting for allegedly operating a warehouse filled with fake goods at 50-03 Metropolitan Ave. in Ridgewood, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison, he said.

Police seized an estimated $4 million in fake goods from the warehouse, including counterfeit Major League Baseball, Crazy Glue, Dolce & Gabana, Nickelodeon, Nike, Northface, Dove soap, Chanel, Yankees and Duracell products, the DA said.

"This type of counterfeiting and black market dealing affect everybody's bottom line," Hynes said. "Merchants operating in this underground economy are able to sell their goods at lower prices than legitimate shopkeepers and deprive the city of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue."

Guo allegedly filled three floors and a basement of his Ridgewood warehouse, known as Eastern Trading Company, with counterfeit goods, Hynes said. Police filled a 40-foot tractor trailer and a 20-foot box truck with goods during the raid, the DA said.

The items were to be sold at sites across the city by sidewalk vendors and dollar stores, Hynes said. The goods were manufactured in China and shipped by boat to the city through the Panama Canal, he said.

In 2008, Guo's business netted an estimated $16 million, and the warehouse's records show that the company's gross profit since 2005 was $61 million, the DA said. The defendants' profits resulted in the city and state losing an estimated $7.6 million in personal income tax revenues, Hynes said.

The couple was busted after detectives allegedly purchased counterfeit items from the warehouse, the DA said. The undercover operation was initiated after the Brooklyn DA's gang bureau received complaints that the Ridgewood site was selling baseball caps with gang colors on them, Hynes said.

The warehouse was raided as part of a larger investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods in Brooklyn, a DA spokesman said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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