Police seize knockoff goods from Tyrone store
Owner says she told customers items were ‘not authentic’
A Tyrone store owner said Tuesday she didn’t know she was breaking the law by selling “not authentic” designer goods.
State police hauled away 569 pieces of merchandise from The Fashion Exchange, 31 W. 10th St., on Nov. 9 that police and a private investigation firm representing Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and other brands contend are counterfeit, according to a search warrant filed in Tyrone District Court.
Troopers seized handbags, purses, clutch bags, gloves, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, sandals and boots during the search of the store, one that was preceded by the alleged purchase of a $50 counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbag and a $20 Michael Kors clutch bag that same day by an undercover state trooper.
“I always called it ‘not authentic,’ and I wasn’t hiding it,” owner Tammy Hirt-Huff said on Tuesday of the investigation, one that has not led to any charges at this time.
Hirt-Huff said she knew that passing counterfeit goods off as authentic was against the law but truly thought that because she wasn’t trying to pass the items off as genuine, she wasn’t breaking the law.
“I was never trying to deceive anybody,” Hirt-Huff said of the items in question.
Police point out in the search warrant that Hirt-Huff told both a private investigator hired by Michael Kors and other brands and the state trooper that the items they were buying were indeed counterfeit. Hirt-Huff said she doesn’t like to use the word counterfeit and refers to them as “not authentic.”
According to the search warrant, Michael Kors contacted a Norristown-based private detective firm in September after the company “received information from the public” that The Fashion Exchange was advertising Michael Kors items on its Facebook page and labeling them as “not authentic.”
A subsequent visit to the store in late September, where the investigator allegedly bought counterfeit Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UGGS, Gucci and Ray-Ban products, led to the investigation firm contacting state police in late October. After the undercover trooper allegedly bought the items on Nov. 9, state police returned with a search warrant and took the suspected counterfeit goods.
“It was a real shock,” said Hirt-Huff said of the visit by police and the seizing of the goods.
Hirt-Huff said she finds the items at flea markets and arranges to have them shipped to the store.
“I told them I didn’t realize what I was doing was illegal. If I thought I was doing something wrong, I would have had everything in my back room like they do in Chinatown,” Hirt-Huff said.
She noted she even pays taxes on what she has sold.
“I feel sick about this,” she said.
State police do not comment on ongoing investigations, but Hirt-Huff said she was told it would be at least a month before she learned her fate. The private detective working for Michael Kors and the other brands told her he would present his material to the companies and indicated she may have to pay money for each of the counterfeit items. Hirt-Huff said the items are now off the shelves and she will have to find a way to make up for the loss of merchandise, as well as fill the void left by losing that part of her business, which also includes consignment clothing.
“I look for this to really hurt my business,” Hirt-Huff said.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.