Fed grand jury indicts Bakersfield shop owner

Fed grand jury indicts Bakersfield shop owner »Play Video
Bakersfield businessman Eric Huggins does not deny that at one time he sold counterfeit purses at his business, Girlfriends By Design.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A federal grand jury indicted a Bakersfield businessman Thursday on one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Eric Huggins, 51, owner of a shop called Girlfriends by Design, was arrested Feb. 14 by agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. Huggins allegedly sold counterfeit clothing and accessories bearing labels of well-known designer brands, such as Chanel, Coach and Prada. He also allegedly sold fakes bearing sports logos from the NBA and NFL.

Photos of the counterfeit merchandise >>

Huggins has since been released on numerous pretrial conditions, and his next court appearance is March 1 before a federal magistrate judge in Fresno.

The investigation began when an ICE HSI agent posing as a customer bought several counterfeit items in December 2009 from Girlfriends by Design on Ming Avenue. A few months later, agents served search warrants at Huggins' stores on Ming and 19th Street, as well as Huggins' home. ICE said it seized more than $140,000 worth of counterfeit items.

"Vendors who sell counterfeit products are stealing - they're robbing from law-abiding merchants, from the legitimate companies that make these products, and from the men and women who depend on those legitimate companies for their livelihood," Michael Toms, resident agent in charge for ICE HSI in Bakersfield, said in a news release form the U.S. Attorney's office. "Trafficking in counterfeit goods is a serious crime, which is why ICE HSI will continue to target retailers and websites that engage in this type of activity."

Huggins admitted Feb. 15 to Eyewitness News that he once sold counterfeit purses at Girlfriends by Design on Ming Avenue and on the streets out of his vehicle. He denied selling widespread counterfeit merchandise, as claimed by federal investigators.

"I knew the purses were fake," Huggins told reporter Jose Gaspar at the time. Huggins went on to say, "Bakersfield is big for buying (fakes). If they weren't' so big on buying 'em, we wouldn't be so big on wanting to sell them."  

The charge of trafficking in counterfeit goods carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fine of up to $2 million.