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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS

Bangkok Raid Nets Fake Sunglasses, Oakley Says

Thailand: Agents of the Foothill Ranch company stage their first successful bust at a foreign manufacturing plant.

August 17, 1999|LESLIE EARNEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oakley Inc. investigators and Thai police have uncovered a major counterfeit operation in Bangkok in the sunglass maker's first successful raid on a manufacturing plant outside the United States, the company said Monday.

Twenty police officers and 11 Oakley-hired investigators staged the Aug. 10 bust, the company said. They confiscated 24,000 sunglasses in various stages of assembly, along with manufacturing equipment, such as machines that cut lenses and apply trademarks.

The Foothill Ranch company declined to put a value on the products seized; fake Oakley sunglasses often sell for $10 to $20 a pair, while the real thing goes for $65 to $315.

"This was a very sophisticated operation with the means to develop bogus eye wear from raw material to finished product," Chief Executive William D. Schmidt said in a statement.

Oakley has done battle with counterfeiters since it started making sunglasses 15 years ago. The company has a large network of private investigators and cooperates with law enforcement agencies around the world to investigate and take legal action against people involved in counterfeiting of Oakley products, spokeswoman Renee Law said.

So far this year, the company's fight against patent infringement and counterfeiting has resulted in the recovery of more than 1.4 million pairs of sunglasses and the arrest of more than 150 people, Oakley said. In 1998, 1.1 million sunglasses were confiscated and 364 people arrested.

As a result of the Bangkok raid, Kriengkrai Kangsadan-Senanon, managing director of South East Optic Co. Ltd., was arrested and released after posting bail, Oakley said. He and his company were charged with criminal trademark forgery, Oakley said.

Oakley said it believes the fake goods were being sold in Thailand and in other parts of the world. Documentation found at the raid implicated other suppliers in Bangkok and in China, Oakley said. The investigation is continuing.

In one of the largest U.S. raids, authorities confiscated about 100,000 pairs of counterfeit sunglasses from a warehouse in South El Monte a year ago. Police said the components had been shipped from Taiwan and assembled in the warehouse.

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