Two local law enforcement officers became part of the stateâ€™s new Anti-Counterfeit Trademark Task Force Thursday.
Lt. Brian Greene of the Lincolnton Police Department and Detective Lee Keller of the Lincoln County Sheriffâ€™s Office joined eight other officers from the region in the effort to stamp out fake brand-name goods.
The founding members of the new task force made that commitment in a ceremony at the State Capitol in Raleigh organized by Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Her department oversees trademark registration and enforcement in the state.
â€œThe goal of this task force is to really take the fight to the criminals that bring counterfeit goods into our state,â€ Marshall said in a press release. â€œWe will be training participants on the fine points of spotting fake products, our stateâ€™s trademarks law, and then how to work enforcement as a team in a multi-county approach.â€
Another goal for the group will be explaining to the public that buying fake brand-name products is dangerous and supports major criminal enterprises, Marshall said.
Marshall said buying a pair of baby pajamas with a false label saying they are flame-retardant or purchasing a knock-off appliance with a forged UL approval sticker on it are ways to bring a deadly tragedy right into the home.
â€œAlso, we do know that terrorists, including Al-Qaeda, have used the counterfeit product trade to fund their operations â€” they like it because it provides cash to them,â€ Marshall said, â€œand until recently, it had a lower profile as a crime than drugs or arms selling or other things they could do to generate currency.â€
The new task force members represent 10 local and county law enforcement agencies within a contiguous six-county region of North Carolina.
Along with Lincoln, counties that will have active task force members include Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Wilkes.
Secretary of State officials said it was important to create a contiguous zone for the effort because people selling fake goods often move across city and county borders selling merchandise.
â€œThis is the first time we have tried this kind of approach,â€ Marshall said. â€œWe wanted to pick a region of the state where we had seen both problems with counterfeit goods, but also, enthusiasm from local law enforcement to stop this activity.â€
A primary focus for the task force members will be to receive training from state and private industry experts on how to identify counterfeit items and find where they are sold.
â€œThis illegal trade goes on across North Carolina, but it is often under the radar of most people,â€ Marshall said. â€œYou find the sellers are using the Internet, private homes, any place where they can sell and not be noticed.
Secretary of State officials hope to expand the task force to other regions of the state as the groupâ€™s work receives more notice in North Carolinaâ€™s law enforcement community.