Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It was a give Chloe Hicks’ daughter knew her mother would never buy for herself.

“She knows I would never spend a lot of money on myself, especially purses,” Hicks said.

So when Hicks’ daughter saw the deeply discounted Michael Kors’ purse on the popular fashion website Wanelo, she jumped at the chance to send it to her mother as a gift.

That generous move would ultimately land Hicks in the crosshairs of the federal government and the world-famous fashion designer himself.

“I knew immediately this was above my head and I needed help,” Hicks said.

The purse Hicks’ daughter purchased turned out to be counterfeit, something Hicks only learned when she received a letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Hicks said as soon as she received the letter, she forfeited any interest in the bag.

While there’s no way to track how many people accidentally receive or order counterfeit bags on legitimate websites, an analysis by News4 Investigates found of the 5,987 counterfeit purses and handbags caught by U.S. Customs so far in 2019 shows many of them were single purchases.

Some single shipments of counterfeits were clearly ordered in bulk and intended to be sold in less than reputable locations, including one shipment that was discovered by U.S. Customs in New York of 2,548 counterfeit Chanel bags.

The News4 analysis found order after order of just one bag across the United States.

Derrick Coleman, port director for U.S. Customs in Nashville, said he’s heard from customers who were alerted by the government that they’d ordered or were set to receive a counterfeit purse, that the purse was purchased on a legitimate website.

“How do they respond when they've gotten a counterfeit item?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Most people are truly surprised,” Coleman said.

News4 Investigates repeatedly called and emailed Wanelo to try and determine how a counterfeit item showed up on their site, but no one ever responded.

Hicks thought when she refused the purse that her troubles were over until she received a letter from Michael Lee, an attorney representing Michael Kors.

Lee is also the same attorney who is identified in a federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Michael Kors, that is suing the owner of a flea market in New Haven, CT, for allegedly selling counterfeit items.

The letter orders Hicks to stop the importation of counterfeits and requires a one-time payment of $500.

“When you first read that part (about the payment) - what did you think?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Honestly, I wish I could have drove to New York so I could them my ‘no’ in person,” Hicks said.

Hicks said despite explaining to Lee that she refused the purse and didn’t actually order it herself, he continued to reach out.

“This is my third attempt to speak to you again. This matter is simply not going to go away,” Lee said in a voicemail.

Lee emailed News4 Investigates and wrote that Michael Kors does not comment on legal matters.

Jessica Chan, global communication director for Kors, wrote in an email, “We are still unable to comment on legal matters at this time and will be in touch should we have any follow up information and comments.”

Hicks said she refuses to pay the money.

“Do you wonder if there are other people who wonder if people are in the same shoes that you are?” asked News4 Investigates.

“They must be. I can't imagine I’m the lonely old duck in this boat,” Hicks said.

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