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Men arrested accused of selling counterfeit golf clubs

ORLANDO, Fla. - Federal agents on Monday arrested six golf club distributors and four manufacturers who allegedly sold millions of dollars in counterfeit golf equipment.

The arrests by U.S. Customs Service agents in Orlando, Atlanta, Houston and Savannah, Ga., followed an undercover investigation, dubbed "Project Teed Off," in which agents posed as importers for two major counterfeit golf club manufacturers.

Agents made 303 seizures of phoney golf equipment worth $6 million during the two-year investigation, which was initiated at the request of the golf equipment industry. The arrests were timed to coincide with the Professional Golf Association's Merchandise Show being held this week in Orlando.

"We were aware of a counterfeiting problem in the golfing industry and we attempted to infiltrate the underground, the counterfeit component," said Agent Joe Henderson, agent in charge of the agency's Orlando office.

The investigation focused on fake U.S. brand-name golf equipment made in Taiwan, China, Vietnam and Thailand. Investigators said the majority of counterfeit golf club parts in the United States are imported into the country, sold to a group of distributors and resold to retailers. Some distributors also had their own retail outlets and some of the sales were made by mail orders or over the Internet.

The counterfeit golf clubs were sold for a third of the price of the real product, agents said.

The distributors arrested were Andrew Lee and Oscar Gonzales in Houston; Mike Cohen and Rob Isola in Savannah, Ga.; and Albert and Angie Chung in Atlanta. Two distributors in Los Angeles were still at large.

The manufacturers arrested in Orlando were Midi Liu, owner of Tourney Golf in Taiwan; Ben Liao, and his brother David, whose father owns Join Wee International, a Taiwanese golf manufacturer; and Stephen Cheng, of Los Angeles. Cheng was released on a $50,000 bond, Henderson said. The three others were being held in federal custody.

Agents also executed search warrants Monday in Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia in search of additional phoney golf equipment.