Cooperating business aided police in hat sales probe

 

Lt. Kevin Jones with the Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement examines seized counterfeit baseball caps on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

GEORGETOWN — As the Eagles drove toward the Super Bowl last month a cooperating business assisted law enforcement by twice ordering suspected fraudulent team hats during a three-county investigation that resulted in two arrests and 2,321 confiscated items, according to charging documents.

The merchant placed the second order after Philadelphia topped Minnesota to win the National Football Conference Championship game on Jan. 21, Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Lt. Kevin Jones said in an arrest affidavit filed on Feb. 5.

“The witness was reportedly informed that the order would be shipped,” Lt. Jones said in court documents.

The day after the order, however, DATE said an employee of Richard E. Petty, 70, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, arrived “at the cooperating business with an order which was not expected.”

The business “was instructed to accept the order and pay the employee with a check,” DATE said in the affidavit.

DATE agents arrived at the business and set up a surveillance on a suspect who later identified himself as a part-time employee of the Lizard Sunwear company determined to be owned by Mr. Petty, according to police.

The employee “was later pulled over, arrested and found to be in possession of 142 additional counterfeit hats of identical design to the hats already seized in this investigation,” according to DATE in papers.

DATE eventually cited 14 locations where Lizard Sunwear merchandise was allegedly being sold illegally. The agency confiscated hats with an estimated value of more than $27,500 fraudulently representing NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA teams, authorities said.

The hats were priced between $9.99 and $14.99 and many were judged to be poor quality — including stitching and coloring — and lacking in authentic trademark identification, DATE said. Maryland-based trademark investigator Blazer Investigations assisted in the probe.

“Authentic apparel licensed by the NFL is priced higher than what was displayed on the hats in the liquor store,” Lt. Jones explained in the charging documents.

Hats were seized at DOT Discount Cigarettes locations in Milford, Selbyville, Lewes, Bethany Beach, Georgetown, Milford, Dover (three sites) and Smyrna, along with separate businesses in Wilmington, Claymont and Newark.

The investigation originated at One Stop Liquor Mart in Georgetown, beginning on Jan. 2 when several dozen hats were noticed during a routine check by uniformed agents, DATE said.

Accompanied by an attorney, DATE said, Mr. Petty turned himself into authorities on Feb. 8 and was charged with felony trademark counterfeiting more than 1,000 items and failure to obtain a business license, an unclassified misdemeanor.

He pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor during arraignment at Justice of the Peace Court 2 in Rehoboth Beach and released on a $4,500 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

In court papers, DATE said Mr. Petty was found to have a license in Arizona and Lizard Sunwear has an incorporation in that state.

Derrick Andricola, 56, of Turnersville, New Jersey, was charged with trademark counterfeiting after allegedly delivering fraudulent hats to a Delaware business, DATE said. He was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 2 on Jan. 24 and released on $1,000 unsecured bond.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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