WASHINGTON – The Yves St. Laurent and Tommy Hilfiger labels may be phony, but the thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims getting knockoff items seized by federal customs officials probably don't mind.
Displaced survivors in the Houston Astrodome can choose from counterfeit and abandoned clothing, toys, and even dog food.
More than 100,000 items were quickly taken from warehouses and more will follow, said Kristi Clemens, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection division.
The agency has some one million items stored, and Customs officials are going through their inventory to see what else would be useful. While the initial shipment went to Texas, officials are looking toward a wider distribution, Clemens said.
For humans, virtually anything that you can wear is available: underwear, jeans, baseball caps, T-shirts, shoes and socks. For dogs: much needed food. For children, toys. For everyone: clean sheets and blankets.
Clemens said officials are looking for locations to deliver items in Louisiana and Mississippi, and then will scout for shelters in other states.
American businesses lose up to $250 billion annually from knockoffs, according to figures released in a Senate hearing. Federal officials seized $138 million in counterfeited goods last year, up from $94 million in 2003.
Counterfeit clothing currently accounts for about 18 percent of seized items.
Law enforcement officials and other experts have testified that counterfeit clothing and other goods have been traced to supporters of terror organizations.
Most counterfeit items come from China, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Russia, according to Customs officials.