The 6 Strangest Bootlegged Items

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Bootlegged and counterfeited items are commonplace. Wherever there's a profit to be made, there are sure to be people bootlegging and counterfeiting in an attempt to make a quick buck. Our food supply, our history, our safety, and even where we shop can be bootlegged by committed criminals. Here are six of the strangest things to be bootlegged.

1. An entire Apple store

In 2011, 22 Chinese Apple stores were discovered to not actually be Apple stores. They were just convincing bootlegged fakes, right down to the decor and posters. The geniuses manning the store wore the same blue t-shirts legit Apple employees wear, and many of them didn't realize their store wasn't affiliated with the Cupertino, California-based company. The fake stores still keep running, with new ones popping up all the time, taking advantage of China's lax intellectual property laws.

2. Maple syrup

Last August, 2.7 million kilograms of maple syrup, worth $17.5 million, disappeared from Quebec’s Global Strategic Maple Syrup reserve. Twenty-three people alleged to be involved in a stealing-and-smuggling ring have been arrested, the last of whom was caught this month, accused of siphoning off the syrup and delivering it under their own terms to customers.

3. Olive oil

Maple syrup isn’t the only liquid foodstuff that gets bootlegged. That prime Greek olive oil you fill your supermarket cart with every week? It may well not be Greek—and it may well not be olive oil, either. Unscrupulous traders often pass off lesser oils as olive products, and take the profits, as one journalist discovered.

4. Baby milk formula

Maple syrup and olive oil bootlegging is criminal, but ultimately, it hasn’t yet harmed people. Some bootlegging of food items can harm, though, as evidenced in China. Chinese supplies of baby milk formula have been tainted and bootlegged with melamine—a chemical used in plastics and adhesives.

5. Dino bones

Cast a skeptical eye over any fossils you see displayed in exhibits. An awful lot of them were sourced from China (because its present-day landmass was a locus of dinosaurs in prehistoric times), and an awful lot of people got rich. And where there's the opportunity of profit, bootleggers often step in. In the 1970s, fakes began entering the market, and now it can be difficult to trace what's a true fossil and what is a whittled chicken bone.

6. Bomb detectors

The ADE 651 bomb detector was sold worldwide to 20 different countries. At $60,000 per detector, it wasn't a cheap investment, but in places like Iraq, its proven detection ability—finding bombs buried up to 1 kilometer below ground—was worth it for safety. The Iraqi government spent $85 million on them. Problem was, they were fakes—and they didn't work. The British businessman who willingly sold the bootleg devices to governments, armies, and police forces was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year.

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September 30, 2013 - 5:00pm
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