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Feds bust fake purse ring in Bayside area

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Police have arrested 11 residents of Oakland Gardens, Bayside and Flushing, charging them with being part of a counterfeit handbag dealer ring that brought them millions of dollars in illegal profits, the Manhattan district attorney said.

The alleged members of the operation have also been accused of taking advantage of the city’s welfare system by telling the government they were working at low-paying jobs, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance said.

The defendants were arraigned between last Thursday and Monday on charges of welfare fraud, grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing charges in Manhattan Criminal Court. If convicted, they could face anywhere from 1 1/2 years to 15 years in prison on the various charges.

The defendants include Yun Sue Huang, 34; Cun Liang Lin, 34; Choi Mui Ha, 46; Cail Mei Xia, 48; Ling Di Gao, 36; and Xing Yun Hu, 51, all of whom are from Oakland Gardens, the DA said.

Also arraigned were Bayside’s Sheng Li Weng, 45, and Xiuluian Wang, 48, as well as Flushing residents Wei Bi Zou, 38; Chun Fei Chen, 46; and Yun Liu Jin, 46.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants sold fake knockoffs of Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Coach handbags in minivans and at storefronts along Canal Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The total value of the items, which also included wallets, was estimated at $1 million, Vance said.

“The defendants took advantage of the public assistance system, by stealing money intended to help individuals and families struggling in this economic downturn,” the Manhattan DA said.

The homes of six suspected members of the ring from Queens were raided and more than 13,500 fake handbags as well as an estimated $50,000 in cash were seized. The ring was brought down after its members were linked to a counterfeiting bust that took place in Manhattan last spring.

The defendants are accused of receiving public assistance benefits through the city’s welfare system by claiming to work in jobs that pay low wages, the DA said. But many of them had upscale homes that cost more than $1 million and expensive cars, Vance said.

The bust was carried out by the city Police Department’s organized crime investigative division.

The defendants, none of whom had vendor’s licenses, were alleged to have sold the handbags between December 2002 and last month.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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