HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. (Oct. 12, 2015) - Hancock County investigators are working to determine the scope of a counterfeiting operation suspected of selling, storing and moving about $1 million worth of fake merchandise through Indiana.
Fee Qi Zhang, 43, and Ling Jiang, 34, were formally charged in Hancock County court with felony counts of counterfeiting, conspiracy to commit counterfeiting and possession of methamphetamine. They were also charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
The two men were arrested last Wednesday after being pulled over on I-70 in Hancock County for an improper turn signal violation. In court documents, Hancock County Sheriffs Deputy Nick Ernstes says he noticed a strong odor of car air freshener, multiple cell phones around the center console, and indicators that the driver was high on a stimulant. Zhang, according to court documents, told police he and Jiang had recently traveled from Florida to Chicago, to New York City and were on their way to St. Louis.
Zhang and Jiang consented to a search of the red Nissan Altima, which yielded 672 pairs of counterfeit UGG gloves, wads of cash, methamphetamine and a pipe. The gloves were inside black trash bags.
Police also found rental paperwork from The Storehouse Storage Facility, located near 25th Street and Mitthoeffer Road in Indianapolis. They also found rental contracts for several U-Haul trucks and multiple skids of items from warehouses in New Jersey.
A later search of the storage facility turned up six storage units containing more than 1,700 counterfeit items made to look like North Face jackets, Michael Kors purses, Beats by Dre headphones and other items. Bags of cash were also recovered. Agents with the Indianapolis District Office of Homeland Security assisted with the search and interviews.
During interviews through a Chinese interpreter, Jiang and Zhang told police they had purchased the counterfeit UGG gloves on Canal Street in New York City. The area is known to be a large distribution area for counterfeit goods. The two men bought the gloves for $1 per pair, and were planning to sell them for $2 at a flea market in St. Louis.
Investigators also found paperwork showing Jiang and Zhang had set up a booth at the Levi Coffin Days festival in Fountain City, north of Richmond between September 18 and September 20.
Detectives think the men may have been busy selling items at other festivals around Indiana, and could be part of a larger counterfeit operation across multiple states.
That part of the investigation is ongoing and could result in more charges being filed. Zhang and Jiang were being held on $5,000 cash bond in the Hancock County Jail. Their next pretrial hearing was scheduled for December 22. Jury trial is currently set for March 8 next year.