Federal agents are stepping up efforts to curb the proliferation of counterfeit purses.  Designer knock-offs have become so ubiquitous that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (“ICE”) is concerned that their sale is a key revenue source for organized crime syndicates.

In a news story here, Nebraska TV station KETV7 says it snuck hidden cameras inside a handbag-selling get-together, a so-called “purse party.”  Among the designer brands of which replicas were sold at this party were “Coach, Prada and Chanel.”  The story quotes William Wallrapp of the ICE as saying that some counterfeit handbag sellers can make upwards of six figures.

These knock-offs can rob legitimate companies of millions of dollars a year.  But while this is a serious issue, Wallrapp says that a more serious issue is that many times organized crime rings around the world are the actual producers of the fakes.

That means that while fashion-frenzied shoppers feed their need to sport the latest style (or something closely resembling it), they may be unwittingly funding crimes far more serious than counterfeiting.