Chinatown Worker Busted for Counterfeit Goods Was Selling Funeral Offerings

August 30, 2011
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MANHATTAN – A Chinatown shop worker busted for hawking counterfeit goods was actually selling cardboard cutouts featuring fashionable brand names that are used as symbolic offerings at Chinese funerals, according to court documents and reports.

The worker, at Fook On Sing Funeral Supplies on Mulberry Street, near Worth Street, was arrested for selling items that are traditionally burned at Chinese funerals as tributes to the dead, the New York Times reported.

Police charged Wingsun Mak, 28, with two counts of copyright infringement for selling the cardboard pieces, designed to look like luxury handbags bearing labels like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry.

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The store, on Chinatown’s “Funeral Row,” sells everything from cardboard flat-screen televisions to stacks of fake $10,000 bills, the Times reported. It is customary for funeral-goers in Chinese services to burn any number of items as gifts to the deceased.

“When people die, they feel they are going to need things in the next world,” the store’s co-owner Amy Mak-Chan, the arrested man’s aunt, told the Times. “They might want a car and a house and other nice things. People buy these things here, to give them as gifts at the funeral.”

According to the criminal complaint, the shop worker offered to sell undercover cops paper Louis Vuitton and Burberry handbags, as well as shoes and children’s outfits with designer trademarks on Aug. 23.

In the complaint, investigators acknowledge that all of the items were made out of paper.

Mak was held at the local police precinct overnight and arraigned the next day, the Times noted. He was released without bail on Aug. 24, according to court records.

His lawyer reportedly turned down a deal from prosecutors to plead guilty to disorderly conduct charges and pay a $100 fine.

Local Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who has spearheaded efforts to crack down on the sale of counterfeit goods in her district, said the arrest shows a lack of cultural understanding on the part of police.

“The burning of paper offerings for the deceased is a Chinese tradition that is hundreds of years old,” said Chin, the first-ever Chinese-American elected to represent Chinatown.

“I would expect the police to be more culturally sensitive. Counterfeit trademark goods are sold on the street, in plain view, from Chinatown to Midtown. But instead this funeral supply store was targeted. I highly doubt anyone looking for a counterfeit bags would mistake them for funeral offerings.”

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