Police seize counterfeit sports items from stores in Dover Mall


Pictured are some of the 402 photographs seized Tuesday during a search warrant at two stores in the Dover Mall. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — Thousands of dollars worth of allegedly counterfeit sports merchandise was confiscated at two stores in Dover Mall Tuesday to conclude an undercover investigation, authorities said Thursday.

An arrest warrant was filed for Salvatore Argo, 42, of Mountaintop, Pennsylvania, who owns Sports Fever and Christmas Treasures, according to Dover Police. Authorities had contacted his Dover-based attorney and expected Mr. Argo to turn himself in after the holidays to avoid an extradition process.

Police believe Mr. Argo owns stores in other states.

Authorities said at least four felonies and 12 misdemeanor charges were pending, all trademark counterfeit counts classified by the purported value of the item. Police identified organizations such as the NFL, NBA, NCAA, NHL and MLB, among others, to identify trademark infringements and ensuing alleged offenses. Allegedly fake Nike, Adidas, New Era, Ness, and Reebok labeled items were also seized, among others.

Approximately 8 to 10 Dover Police officers, some uniformed and others plainclothes, executed a search warrant with a trademark specialist from Blazer Investigations in Baltimore to certify if merchandise such as jerseys, autographed photos, hats and T-shirts were authentic. Police spent about an hour in the seasonal Christmas Treasures store and three to four hours in Sports Fever, authorities said.

Police said about one-third of the merchandise was removed from each store. About 90 percent of the jerseys — including items like one supposedly autographed by NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird — were deemed to be fake.

Confiscated sports jerseys are stacked on a table at the Dover Police Department late Thursday morning. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

A photo supposedly signed by former 76er star Charles Barkley was priced at $69.99, and jerseys typically ran $100 or more. Several generations of sports stars were represented, from 1960s baseball hall of famers and past Oakland Raiders Super Bowl winners to New England tight end Rob Gronkowski and other current standouts.

Dover Police displayed allegedly fraudulent sports team hats during a news conference Thursday morning.  (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

“It’s fair to say that some of the merchandise in the store was authentic,” Dover Police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

The enormity of the seized items required a full-size conversion van to haul it away to the police station, where it will be stored as evidence until the case is resolved. The merchandise will be destroyed afterward, if applicable.

Police said they’ve investigated similar counterfeit cases at local NASCAR and Firefly events, but nothing quite this grand.

“This is a pretty significant seizure,” Cpl. Hoffman said at a news conference that had displayed some of the allegedly fraudulent memorabilia on several tables.

“It’s one of the largest, if not the largest seizure in a retail establishment.”

Police advised anyone with questions about items purchased to contact the stores.

“Some people will make the argument that this is a victimless crime, but people are shelling out money for items they believe are authentic to give as gifts to loved ones,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “ … The fact is that you’re not getting what you paid for.”

Mall representatives were aware of the issues and present at the time of the search warrant executions, police said.

After receiving a tip within the past month, police said undercover officers in the Drugs, Vice, Organized Crimes Unit examined merchandise in the store to investigate, taking pictures of items that were sent to Blazer Investigations to confirm authenticity or otherwise. Authorities received feedback that fraudulent merchandise was involved, police said.

Authorities released a list of seized items that were allegedly fraudulent, including:

• 311 NFL counterfeit jerseys

• 87 MLB counterfeit jerseys

• 93 NBA counterfeit jerseys

• 15 NCAA counterfeit jerseys

• 9 MLB counterfeit T-shirts

• 42 NFL counterfeit T-Shirts

• 77 NFL counterfeit sweatshirts

• 7 MLB counterfeit sweatshirts

• 9 NBA counterfeit sweatshirts

• 1 NHL counterfeit sweatshirt

• 347 counterfeit New Era hats

• 29 counterfeit Mitchell and Ness hats

• 20 counterfeit 47 Brand hats

• 8 counterfeit Adidas hats

• 13 counterfeit Nike hats

• 10 counterfeit Reebok hats

• 402 counterfeit photographs

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