The phony Rolex watches took a licking, but some kept on ticking.
And that was after a multi-ton double-drum vibrating roller tried to crush 7,000 counterfeit Rolex watches about 10 times at a contractor's site, James D. Morrisey Inc., in Holmesburg.
The watches were seized from rags-to-riches illegal-Rolex manufacturer Binh Cam Tran, 53, who in 2009 landed in federal prison for six years after eluding capture for five years.
The watches were bogus, but apparently well-made. All you had to do was shake the status-symbol watch, as if it were real, and the second hand still operated.
Yesterday's bulldozing event was the grand finale of an international multimillion-dollar federal counterfeiting case some 20 years in the making - unveiled on World Intellectual Property Rights Day.
Counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy more than $200 million a year and 750,000 American jobs, according to industry analysts.
Pharmaceuticals accounted for the top counterfeit commodity - posing the most serious health risk - because of their phony composition. And the leading manufacturer of phony brand-name merchandise come from our leading trade partner, China.
In the high-profile case of Tran, the Vietnam-native-turned-U.S.-citizen was convicted of trafficking in counterfeit goods, conspiracy and nine counts of money laundering and ordered to pay $2,273,166 in restitution to Rolex USA.
He started as a legitimate watchmaker on Jewelers Row on Sansom Street near 7th, then got into the counterfeit world, said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement here.
He ended up manufacturing the watches in his North Philadelphia rowhouse and kept moving to better quarters - ending up in Elkins Park, where he owned a fleet of Lexus cars.
Tran rarely left his house, where he used nearly every room to make or store watches, with the assistance of relatives and others, said Kelleghan. Tran became so rich that he bought a factory in Hong Kong to manufacture parts stamped with the Rolex trademark.
Using the alias Benny Chen, he imported the parts in small packages under his name and the names of Vietnamese gang members in New York who turned over the merchandise to him.
He even falsified orders and invoices on Chinese paper using what appeared to be authentic stamps on red wax, which he sent by courier service to Hong Kong, which returned them with merchandise.
Tran specialized in the Diver-style Rolex, which cost more than $10,000 in an authorized store after being made at the Rolex factory in Geneva, Switzerland.
Known as "the Rolex guy" on Canal Street in New York, the onetime center of America's counterfeit world, he sold his phony watches at "wholesale" counterfeit prices of $25 to $100 apiece, said Kelleghan
Tran was "one of the largest" manufacturers of counterfeit Rolexes in the United States, said Rolex USA counsel Brian Brokate, a partner in Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty in New York.
The firm specializes in anti-counterfeit investigations for brand-name clients and assisted ICE, the IRS and Customs and Border Protection in the Tran case.
Agents seized 24,000 phony Rolexes, including the 7,000 destroyed yesterday, and enough parts to manufacture a million more watches, plus molds, dies, print machines and stamp presses to imprint Rolex trademarks, said Kelleghan.
Brokate credited a 20-year "dogged pursuit" of Tran to a federal agent with ICE. ICE declined to identify the agent for publication. Tran's attorney, Jack McMahon, dubbed him "Tran, the Rolex man."
"They were very well-made watches," said McMahon, after learning of the smashing event yesterday. "I guess it was time to do it."