The case of the bad bag ladies

How a knockoff handbag ring busted itself.

Published November 4, 2005 6:15PM (EST)

Here's one for the dumb-criminals file: The Boston Globe reports that three sisters in Massachusetts -- and one of their boyfriends -- were running a knockoff bag ring, selling fake Gucci, Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton handbags and wallets for $40 a pop.

The enterprising twentysomethings sold the fake designer goods at flea markets and suburban "purse parties," where the hostess would reportedly get a free bag of her choice. The counterfeiters threw more than 200 of these parties over the course of 16 months, and the sales were pouring in, until a thief broke into one of their storage units, stealing 75 bags, worth approximately $1,500.

Here's where it gets dumb: One of the sisters reported the theft to the police. Then, the alleged thief counterattacked, tipping off the authorities that the young purse peddlers were running a vast counterfeit ring out of their storage unit.

A subsequent state police raid netted 46,000 handbags and wallets from the fakers' stash, an estimated $1.4 million worth of phony merchandise. Thursday, the three sisters and the boyfriend were charged with money laundering and trafficking in counterfeit goods in a federal indictment. The feds have seized their cars and homes in Chelsea, Mass., and Texas.

Sounds like the purse party is over.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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