ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A KRQE News 13 undercover investigation into popular, counterfeit Christmas gifts ensnared a city of Albuquerque employee and sparked a federal investigation.
On Special Assignment reporter Kim Holland concentrated on two high-priced pop-culture items – " Beats By Dre " headphones and National Football League jerseys . Online sites like Craigslist feature scores of ads for the two items from sellers in Albuquerque.
"If they're trying to pass it off as being authentic, that's a crime," said Albuquerque Police Department Officer Rob Gibbs. "You're looking at a fraud, possibly forgery."
News 13 met with two Internet peddlers on Albuquerque streets and –- not surprisingly – rediscovered that deals that sound too good to be true almost always are.
"We see counterfeit jerseys practically every week," said Andy Hageman, owner of the House of Football store in Albuquerque. "Often customers often think they have the real thing when they walk in the store."
News 13 looked at "Beats By Dre" headphones first.
Numerous people in the Albuquerque area frequently post ads on the Internet selling the headphones for a fraction of the retail price, which can run as high as $300. After one seller News 13 found on Craigslist agreed to meet in an Albuquerque parking lot, he arrived in his car and showed a News 13 employee a trunkful of Beats By Dre earbuds called "Tours" that were still in the box.
"Tours" normally retail for $150. The man claimed they were real, and wanted $50 a pair.
"I'm a rep," he said. "I have the whole line."
He said he sells 150-200 of the headphones per month.
"When I first started doing this I was buying a few," he said. "Now I'm making huge orders. I'm getting some really good prices."
However, the seller wouldn't let our employee see the earbuds in the box unless he bought them.
Beats By Dre later confirmed the man was not an authorized dealer. The company also told News 13 that for $50, they were almost guaranteed to be fakes.
Tell-tale signs of counterfeit goods include boxes with lighter, poor-quality print, while the earbuds do not have etched logos like the real ones.
But it was News 13's foray into the murky world of counterfeit NFL jerseys that really stirred things up.
Licensed Nike NFL jerseys can go for up to $300 although there are dozens of ads on-line for $50 jerseys. One man's ads on Craigslist caught News 13's eye.
He identified himself as "Trey" and posted listings for almost every NFL team promising "brand new Nike jerseys."
A News 13 staffer met him downtown, and Trey showed him a trunkful of jerseys complete with "Nike" and "NFL" logos.
"I get them directly overseas," Trey said. "I'm cutting out the middle guy. That's why the NFL makes a billion dollars a year and I work for a living."
After the initial meeting, News 13 discovered that Trey's full name is Trey Flynt, and he investigates civilian complaints of police misconduct for the city of Albuquerque's Independent Review Office. He's worked there for more than 11 years.
News 13 met Flynt again a day later in the parking lot outside his city office where News 13's staffer bought a Dallas Cowboys jersey from him. After that, On Special Assignment reporter Kim Holland confronted Flynt and asked him if the jerseys he was selling were real.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know what they are."
Next, she asked where the jerseys come from.
"I purchase them from people who sell them," Flynt said.
News 13 took the Cowboys jersey to the experts at House of Football.
"That's about as poor as I've seen," Hageman said.
He said the NFL logo was plastic rather than embroidered. Also, the fabric displaying the player's name was sloppy, while the stitching was unraveling in places.
Gibbs said trying to pass these off as real is illegal and could be criminal. But he said it's hard to prosecute because buyers should know better based on the low price.
Meanwhile, Flynt's boss launched an internal investigation after hearing about News 13's undercover buy. Investigators confiscated his work computers last Thursday to see if he was conducting his jersey business during city time. Flynt remains at work, however,
Also, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that agents have opened an investigation into Flynt's activities because federal law prohibits counterfeit goods from being imported into the United States.
Schemers behind fake sweepstakes are accessing personal information and using the legitimacy of well-known names like the Better Business Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service to swindle unsuspecting players out of thousands of dollars.
John Smith with your forecast and Kim Vallez with your afternoon headlines.
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