Sunday, July 7, 2024

Palm Beach Store Owner Charged with Selling $2 Million in Counterfeit Goods

Palm Beach, Fla.— A Hypoluxo woman has been charged with selling counterfeit luxury goods worth approximately $2 million at her two Palm Beach jewelry stores.

Olena Austin, 52, was arrested Thursday following a six-month investigation by town police, according to a probable cause affidavit. Austin owns Blesk Jewelry at 350 S. County Road and 313 Worth Ave.

She was charged with one count of selling or offering for sale counterfeit goods or services valued over $20,000. Austin was arrested at her South County Road store, which displayed a ‘closed’ sign on Friday. Police allege she sold counterfeit clothing and jewelry branded as Chanel, Pucci, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany, Rolex, Versace, and Bottega Veneta. She was released on Friday after posting a $50,000 surety bond.

“The Palm Beach Police Department has a close relationship with our vibrant and storied business community, so when we were alerted to counterfeit sales by Blesk, we took it seriously,” said department spokesman Capt. Will Rothrock. “This is not a victimless crime. Crimes such as this one make actual impacts on our legitimate local businesses and threaten to mar the hard-earned reputation of the town’s retail community.”

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Worth-Less,” began in October 2023 after the FBI provided information about ongoing counterfeit sales at both Blesk Jewelry locations. In November, an undercover detective observed and purchased counterfeit items at the South County Road store, including a Pucci multicolored shirt, which was later confirmed as counterfeit by a Pucci representative.

On May 23, an undercover detective visited the Worth Avenue store, where Austin admitted that items were “heavily influenced” designs but not authentic. The detective purchased Chanel-inspired earrings for $694, which were later confirmed as counterfeit by a Chanel representative. Further investigation in May led to the purchase of a counterfeit Van Cleef-style bracelet.

Search warrants were executed at both stores on June 6. Police, assisted by brand representatives, identified hundreds of counterfeit items, estimating their value at $2 million. Additionally, $4,294.33 in proceeds from counterfeit sales was seized.

Authorities urge anyone who purchased high-value items from Blesk Jewelry to verify their authenticity and report any concerns to the Palm Beach Police Department.

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