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NYPD busts $8 million counterfeit phone scheme

Officers seize more than 10,000 fake iPhones and Samsung devices in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
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Police seized more than 9,000 in fake phones from this store in Brooklyn.

Screenshot by Alfred Ng via CBS Local
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These iPhoneys are going to need a jailbreak.

The New York Police Department raided two storefronts in Brooklyn on Thursday night, seizing up to 11,000 fake iPhones and Samsung devices, as well as counterfeit phone accessories. Police said the counterfeit phones were valued at $8 million.

Officers executed a search warrant for "Phone Traders" on Coney Island Avenue at about 11:55 a.m. ET Thursday. They seized 9,000 counterfeit phones and $59,000 from the store. The location had actually been a warehouse for a stash of fake phones, which police believed was supplying smaller stores with its counterfeit devices.

Then, at 4:30 p.m. ET, cops busted "HQ Wireless" on Highlawn Avenue, seizing 2,200 fake phones and $12,000 from that storefront. The store had opened last November, according to public records.

Counterfeit electronics have been a growing concern as knockoff phones and accessories ignore safety standards, expanding the smartphone black market. A study published by a UK business watchdog claimed that 99 percent of counterfeit Apple chargers purchased online failed a basic safety test. Online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba have also been plagued with counterfeit scourges.

"These products are dangerous. These products are not what the manufacturer produced in a safe space," said Brian McCarthy, an NYPD assistant chief. He added it was unclear if any of the fake Samsung devices caused any fires, but phone experts the department worked with "expressed some concern in that area."

The nine-month investigation started when customs officers at John F. Kennedy Airport noticed suspicious shipments, and tipped off Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the NYPD.

Investigators tracked the faux phones from the airport to the two Brooklyn storefronts and on Thursday arrested three men allegedly behind the scheme. They were charged Friday with trademark counterfeiting and face up to four years in prison.

The investigation is ongoing as police are looking into how many fake phones have already been sold.