Prosecutors dispute racial motivation alleged in charge against Mills mall shop owner
Allegheny County prosecutors are contesting the claim that the owner of a Pittsburgh Mills store was charged with selling counterfeit merchandise because of his race.
The District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday said the “police acted appropriately and without racial motivation” in the case against Tommy Wang.
“The police, pursuant to relevant training and experience, observed unlicensed, counterfeit merchandise displayed for sale on February 15, 2018 and made two subsequent purchases of such merchandise,” prosecutors said in a motion filed Wednesday with Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Randal B. Todd.
The DA’s office asked Todd not to dismiss the case against Wang.
Wang’s attorney, Casey White, filed a motion Feb. 7 asking for the charge to be dismissed . He claimed that police specifically targeted Wang, 42, of Highland Park because of his Asian race and called the prosecution illegal.
A message left for White was not immediately returned.
The investigation into Wang started after Frazer police were called to the store inside the mall, Shop Off the Hanger, for a report of an attempted burglary in February 2018. While there, former Frazer police Officer Lee Bartolicius saw more than 100 items of what appeared to be unlicensed, counterfeit merchandise in the front part of the store.
Investigators obtained and executed a search warrant, which turned up almost 1,800 suspected counterfeit items, including glass coasters, flags, clocks, beer mugs and wine glasses containing Harley-Davidson, Pitt, Penn State, Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers logos.
Prosecutors said White’s motion omits several facts that were contained in an application for the search warrant and in the criminal complaint outlining the charges against Wang. They said the claim that the charge was based on race is “baseless when all the facts are considered.”
The DA’s motion argued that the officers involved had experience and training in trademark and counterfeit investigations and that Bartolicius believed he saw approximately over 100 items of unlicensed counterfeit merchandise at the store.
Wang is charged with one count of misdemeanor trademark counterfeiting. He is set to appear for a non-jury trial April 10.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.