- Last Updated: 4:47 AM, August 17, 2012
- Posted: 1:48 AM, August 17, 2012
Peddlers of high-end knockoff shoes are seeing red.
Federal agents intercepted a massive haul of bogus Christian Louboutin pumps that scammers were trying to slip into the United States.
More than 20,000 pairs of the shoes — with their distinctive red soles — arrived from China at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport, officials said.
They were listed on manifests as nondescript “footwear” with a value of just $57, 490 — or less than $3 per pair of high-heeled pumps.
But if they were marketed as Louboutins, which sell for more than $800 a pair, they could have been sold to unsuspecting Americans for $18 million, said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jaime Ruiz.
Louboutins have earned iconic status in fashion circles as a favorite of celebrities, royals and anyone else who wants to spend as much on their feet as many New Yorkers spend on rent.
The tip-off that something phony was going on is that the real Louboutins, from a French designer, are made in Italy and would have been shipped from Europe.
“Once we saw it was coming in from China, we knew there was a problem with the shipment,” said CBP Officer Guillermina Escoba.
The fakes turned up in one shipment from China that reached LA July 27, and four more that arrived Tuesday, officials said. In all, there were 20,457 pairs.
“We know by expertise that red soles are a protected trademark in the US. So we sent samples and communicated with Christian Louboutin — the legitimate owner of this trademark,” Ruiz said.
“They said, ‘No, those are not real. We aren’t expecting those shipments. In fact, we don’t make those shoes in China.’ ”
Customs agents said the knockoffs were very good, as counterfeits go, and would have likely been destined for Web sites that specialize in knockoffs, black-market dealers, flea markets and swap meets — not legitimate retailers.
“The public is misguided into believing they are buying an original product at a significant discount,” the CBP said.
The scam was well disguised because three different importers made the shipments, US officials said. No one has been arrested, and an investigation is continuing. But no one gets to keep the shoes — they will be destroyed, probably by burning.