By CHRISTIN COYNE
Searches of two Weatherford businesses last week by federal investigators stemmed from a three-year criminal investigation and reports by former Teskey’s employees that they were instructed to remove required labeling and mislead customers about where items were made, according to search warrants unsealed Thursday.
Both companies have denied knowingly breaking the law and said the family businesses didn’t know the rules.
An Immigrations and Customs Enforcement special agent assigned to the commercial fraud unit in Dallas wrote that he had probable cause that Robert Michael Teskey, owner of Teskey’s, and Robert C. Howard, owner of Bar H, engaged in illegal importation and sale of goods, conspiring to violate two criminal laws relating to country of origin marking requirements on imported goods.
ICE executed search warrants at Teskey’s Saddle Shop in Weatherford, Teskey’s Uptown in Fort Worth and Bar H Equine, located south of Teskey’s Saddle Shop, on Aug. 28. According to warrant returns, investigators seized from the locations computers, documents, miscellaneous leather goods, belts, saddles, “Made in India” labels, and a truck and trailer.
Those convicted of violating the Marking of Imported Articles law could face a fine and imprisonment of up to a year, the search warrant affidavit states. Those convicted of the Entry of Good by Means of False Statements law could face a fine and imprisonment up to two years. However, no arrests have been reported in connection with the ongoing investigation.
Two former employees of Teskey’s Saddle Shop, identified as the importer for “Teskey’s” and “Bar H Equine” branded merchandise, reported in April 2010 that they had been instructed by Teskey to remove labeling from various items before displaying them for sale and to tell customers that the saddlery items were made by Teskey’s in Texas, according to Special Agent Shane Walker.