Tens of thousands of counterfeited sunglasses and eyewear frames were seized in a vast police operation that led to the arrest of 44 persons in the Veneto region and in the rest of Italy during the night between Apr. 21 and 22. These are entrepreneurs, opticians and agents who are suspected to have been involved in an illegal association to counterfeit and export eyewear under famous brand names such as Armani, Calvin Klein, Dior or Gucci.

The operation was probably master-minded by Fabrizio De March, former owner of Time Optic in the Cadore region, who was let go after a brief period of detention that started last December. According to investigators, members of the gang were spotting the most requested models at trade shows and got them copied by experienced workers in the Belluno region at a cost of only e15-20 a pair, instead of the normal price of e30-35 charged for a branded item. Dealer resold the merchandise without paying value-added tax, maximizing gross margins.

The investigation into the racket started in September of 2000, when a Luxottica inspector alerted the authorities to the absence of product coding on certain frames sold in the Rome region. The discovery first led at the beginning of 2001 to the arrest of a dealer who was found carrying thousands of counterfeited frames in the trunk of his car and in his home.