The investigation of the operation began in January, after Valley Stream Fire Department officials returned to the site of a March 2013 fire — which involved burning boxes of Vicks VapoRub at an industrial building on Hawthorne Avenue — for a routine follow-up inspection, and noticed suspicious items such as gas piping and open burners filled with wax. Officials from the Nassau County fire marshal’s office then searched the building and found some of the bogus products, which they later sent to the legitimate manufacturers, who verified that they were counterfeit.
Inside the building, Fire Marshal Scott Tusa said, investigators found “numerous fire and code violations, including open electrical wiring, empty fire extinguishers, and locked and blocked exits that made the workers inside virtual prisoners in the event of a fire or other emergency.”
Rice said that it has not been determined whether the brothers’ employees knew they were working in a counterfeit operation.
“This is one of the largest rings of this type ever,” Rice said at a press conference on March 7 at the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola. “These products were done with a level of professionalism that is just frightening. What’s so disturbing is that people were putting these products on babies.”
Rice added that it is not yet known whether unsuspecting consumers who bought the counterfeit products experienced any adverse health effects.
Frank Roca, Valley Stream’s fire inspector, told the Herald that there were several signs that the manufacturing was not tied to a legitimate company. Propane tanks that fed large burners inside the Valley Stream building, and 55-gallon drums of turpentine left lying around, were among the red flags.
While manufacturing is a permitted use in that building, there were numerous violations. “You still have to follow fire codes,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “There was an illegal burn going on here.”