A New York State woman has been arrested and charged in connection with what authorities allege was a $40 million luxury goods counterfeiting operation based out of Long Island.
Lindsay Castelli, 31, stands accused of one count of trademark counterfeiting in the second degree, according to the Nassau County Police Department. The defendant was arrested late last week in Plainview, New York – following a multi-agency investigation that took well over a year.
Detectives say the inquiry began in April 2021, with the assistance of U.S. Postal Inspectors, at Linny’s Boutique in Plainview.
During the course of that investigation, the NCPD says, detectives allegedly determined the defendant “was the sole owner of a storefront that contained thousands of synthetic heat-sealed counterfeit labels along with assorted clothing and jewelry.”
Earlier this month, asset forfeiture detectives executed a search warrant at the boutique.
“During the search, Detectives removed 22 printing press machines and various counterfeit items labeled from Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Dior, Ugg, and Louis Vuitton,” the department said in a press release. “The combined value of the items was over $40,000,000. Further investigation revealed the items were being shipped all over the United States.”
According to New York City-based flagship Fox station WNYW, the 18-month-long investigation was termed Operation Rainfall.
“It hasn’t rained all summer long and it rained every time we went on a surveillance,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in comments reported by the TV station.
“The store contained thousands of synthetic, heat sealed counterfeit Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Dior and labels purchased from China,” the police commissioner added.
During a press conference, authorities explained how the alleged counterfeiting operation worked.
“They would take a hat, a $3 hat, add a 50-cent item on the side,” Ryder told reporters – demonstrating with the alleged items in particular. “They would heat seal it onto the hat and then sell [the] hat for $300. Another example, this sweatshirt in front of you, a simple $10 sweatshirt, you put the Chanel brand on it, it sells for $5,300; $10 sweatshirt with a counterfeit sticker: $5,300.”
Officials say Castelli’s customers thought they were actually buying the real thing.
“This was a sophisticated operation,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly (R) said in comments reported by CBS News. “A storefront that you could have walked by hundreds of times and not realized what was in it was thousands and thousands of dollars of counterfeit goods.”
“We will arrest you and seize your merchandise,” the DA added in a message to other would-be trademark infringers in Nassau County. “It’s not worth it.”
On Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, three days after the merchandise was seized, Castelli turned herself in. She was released on a desk appearance ticket. Her first court date is currently slated for Nov. 2, 2022. If convicted as charged, she faces a maximum of three years behind bars.
“Not only did she cheat the retail industry, but she also cheated postal customers that must ultimately shoulder the costly burden,” U.S. Postal Inspector Glen McKechnie said in comments reported by the New York Post.
[image via Nassau County Police Department]
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