RIVERWOODS, Ill. (STMW) – An undercover investigation led authorities to a Riverwoods man accused of making and selling more than $650,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise featuring Chicago Bears, Blackhawks and other brand logos.

Authorities found eight employees mass-producing near-replica Bears logos onto cheap winter hats during the Monday raid.

Joseph Kim, 27, is charged with possession of more than 2,000 counterfeit items and manufacturing counterfeit items, both felonies, a release from the Cook County Sheriff’s office said.

Kim was arrested after the Monday raid by sheriff’s police investigators in which more than $650,000 in counterfeit merchandise and $400,000 in equipment were seized.

Counterfeit Sports Operation

More than 10,000 items of counterfeit clothing was seized from a warehouse in Chicago. (credit: Cook County Sheriff)

Investigators found most of the counterfeit apparel was boxed and ready to be shipped from Kim’s headquarters in the 4500 block of West Fillmore Street out to flea markets and small shops across the country, the release said.

The seizure is the largest of its kind by the sheriff’s vice unit in recent years.

In the three-story warehouse Kim operated, police seized eight embroidery machines, valued at around $50,000 each. They also seized more than 10,000 items of counterfeit clothing, more than half of which had Chicago Bears and other NFL logos on them.

Also among the stash were more than 1,000 fraudulent Fox Racing items and hundreds more pieces of merchandise with Harley Davidson, Hurley, Tapout and Nike logos, among others, the release said.

The sheriff’s police vice unit began investigating Kim in October, after receiving information about hundreds of fraudulent T-shirts being sold at major out-of-state flea market, the release said. Officers were able to determine the items were being produced by “Joe Kim Embroidery,” based in Chicago.

Undercover officers then arranged to make multiple purchases of merchandise directly from Kim.

He has used his own legitimate logo and embroidery business —Asian American Industrial Alliance — as a cover for his illegal operation, investigators learned.

Although the company does operate several legitimate public and private contracts for printing services, the vast majority of his business was dedicated to the counterfeit operations as he sold sweatshirts for $8 to $12 each, the release said. Legitimate versions normally retail for about $50 each.

After he was taken into custody, Kim admitted to investigators that he sold counterfeit items but claimed most had already been made and were left over from when his father ran the business, the release said. His father was arrested more than 10 years ago in an unrelated investigation into counterfeit merchandise.

Kim was ordered held on $25,000 bond on Wednesday. He posted the required 10 percent and will remain free while awaiting trial. His next court date is scheduled for Tuesday, the release said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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