The U.S. Customs Service has seized $500,000 of counterfeit equipment and arrested an executive from an India-based engineering firm for selling counterfeit copies of Caterpillar engine parts and software in Columbia, S.C.

CHEEKY Fake parts were found at CONEXPO. (Photo courtesy of Janice L. Tuchman for ENR)

The May 28 raid followed over a year of undercover investigation and is "one of the largest in the history of the heavy equipment industry," says Robert M. Gattison, U.S. Customs Special Agent in Charge, in Atlanta.

Aarkay Engineering Corp. manufactured engine cylinder liners in India, wrapping some in packaging made to look similar to Caterpillar’s packaging, with Caterpillar’s brand on the outside. The company also duplicated Caterpillar software that, if printed out, would take up 15,000 books and periodicals, "or half of a filing cabinet," says Carl Volz, a Caterpillar spokesperson. "A customer in the Midwest was offered this package through an international trade association newsletter, and that customer reported it to us."

David Bianchi, a senior intellectual property attorney for Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill., says the firm conducted between 75 and 150 raids on caches of counterfeit construction equipment last year, seizing just over 13,000 pieces in all. The number of raids Caterpillar conducts has steadily increased over the past three years. Counterfeit dealers also have been identified at trade shows in Europe and at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG show held in Las Vegas last March, at which Aarkay was selling counterfeit Caterpillar products, authorities say.

Equipment counterfeit hot spots include the Far East, Middle East and South Africa, according to Bianchi. Most involved in the construction industry say that the only foolproof way of not buying counterfeit equipment is by going directly to the manufacturer.

Says Bianchi: "If you want to buy Caterpillar parts, go to a Caterpillar dealer."