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Police arrest woman on counterfeit charges

| Friday, July 13, 2001

Arlene Lipton was surprised at her own party Wednesday when two men she thought were Shriners turned out to be Pittsburgh police detectives.

Detectives Jim Conn and John Balobeck arrested Lipton, 56, of Clubview Drive in Bridgeville, on charges trying to sell $65,000 worth of counterfeit fashions.

Conn said the arrest at the Days Inn on Banksville Road followed a four-month investigation of Lipton's business, It's My Party, through which she allegedly sold counterfeit purses, watches and clothing at private homes and hotel ballrooms along the East Coast.

Conn said Louis Vuitton, a purse designer, contacted Holmes High Tech Security in New York City and asked the agency to investigate Lipton's operation. Holmes hired Robert Meinert, a local detective agency, to set up a party that Pittsburgh police could use as a sting operation.

Vuitton purses sell for $700 to $3,000, but Lipton sold a counterfeit for $250 to $350, Conn said.

Lipton also planned to sell counterfeit Kate Spade, Gucci and Coach purses as well as fake Rolex watches and Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirts at the Days Inn, police said. Conn said police confiscated 488 items, for which Lipton was asking a total of $65,000.

Most of the items were purses, which Conn described as high quality and difficult to distinguish from an original.

Robert Holmes, owner of Holmes High Tech Security, examined Lipton's purses and determined they were counterfeits, Conn said.

Conn said Lipton's records revealed she purchased the purses in the Far East for about $10 each. Some of the counterfeiting, such as handpainted fabric, was done in the Far East, while labels and brand names were attached in the United States, he said.

Along with the counterfeit items for sale, police confiscated two handheld computers, equipment for processing credit card transactions and a new van.

Conn said police returned the van to Lipton because she had just purchased it and owed almost the full amount, about $40,000, on a bank loan for it.

Lipton is charged with one count of counterfeiting trademarks. Her preliminary hearing is set for 1 p.m. July 20.

Howard McClellan can be reached at hmcclellan@tribweb.com or at (412) 306-4534.

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