Authorities seized $147,190 in counterfeit Abercrombie & Fitch shirts from two Hilton Head Island stores earlier this month, according to a Beaufort County sheriff's report released this week.
Steven Maleh, owner of the two beachside stores -- Island Breeze Resort Wear and Surf's Up, both at 8 North Forest Beach Drive -- said one of his employees was duped into buying the fake merchandise by a traveling salesman.
Maleh, who splits time between the island and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., does not currently face charges. The investigation is ongoing.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is investigating the stores after the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office received a tip about the clothes.
The issue came to light earlier this month when Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch discovered the clothing, authorities said. The company did not return calls seeking comment.
Investigators with the Secretary of State's Office and Sheriff's Office searched the two stores Aug. 14.
They seized the clothing, heat transfer materials used to print the shirts and about $1,000 in cash.
Maleh, 37, said his two shops make licensed T-shirts with other brands such as Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers and Disney.
"I've always been a law-abiding proprietor of a business," said Maleh, who's owned the stores for 15 years. "Back in April, we were approached by a traveling salesman -- I believe out of Georgia -- who stated that this (was) licensed closeout merchandise. I guess hindsight being 20-20, I should have asked him for some documentation."
Maleh said the salesman's phone has been disconnected. Maleh said he hasn't met with detectives, but plans to do so.
In the future, he said, he'll be more selective about who he does business with.
Maleh disputes the value of the knock-offs. He said detectives seized 684 garments that retailed for about $10,000.
"Unfortunately, we got the brunt-end of the stick by having these in our shop," he said.
In South Carolina, knowingly traffickingin counterfeit goods carries up to a $25,000 fine with the possibility of up to five years in prison for the first offense, depending on the retail value of the items.
Knock-off cases are rare on Hilton Head, which doesn't have as many shirt shops as some tourist destinations like Myrtle Beach and those in Florida.
However, the Richland County Sheriff's Office charged a man last week for allegedly selling $200,000 in fake Prada, Gucci, Coach, Nike and other brand-name merchandise from a trailer parked at a Columbia gas station.
Three businesses were raided in Spartanburg last year, netting about $127,000 in bootlegged clothing and CDs.