A man who was accused of selling counterfeit clothing with his father is speaking out, claiming he is guilty by association and had nothing to do with the crime.
On Thursday around 9 a.m., Muhammad Bobbitt-Salaam, 29, and his father, Abdel Salaam, 48, were arrested at the People's Choice and Discount Clothing store at 531 Avenue of the States in Chester, Delaware County.
Police claim both men were selling counterfeit shoes, clothes, sunglasses and purses bearing the names of designers like Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Gucci.
More than $150,000 in fake merchandise was confiscated by police.
The arrests come after a year-long investigation by Homeland Security agents who enlisted the help of private investigators that went undercover to make purchases at the store, according to the Delaware County District Attorney's Office.
"Both legitimate businesses and consumers are cheated when low-quality fake goods unfairly compete against actual brands of known quality in the marketplace,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan.
The father and son were arraigned shortly after their arrests and charged with trademark counterfeiting and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, according to the DA's office.
After being released on 10-percent of $10,000 bail, Bobbitt-Salaam reached out to NBC10 and maintained his innocence.
“I’m not a store owner,” Bobbitt-Salaam said. “I have nothing to do with purchasing or counterfeiting any property. I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing that.”
Bobbitt-Salaam says he wasn’t even there when police initially arrested his father.
“I had just finished a workout when I received a phone call that something was going on at my father’s store,” he said. “I checked it out to make sure everything was okay.”
Bobbitt-Salaam says he watched police search the store from a distance when he was suddenly approached by an officer.
“I told them my name,” Bobbitt-Salaam said. “They put handcuffs on me and sat me against the wall. I asked them what my charges were. They told me to sit there and just wait. I waited and I asked them again but they never told me.”
Bobbitt-Salaam says he was then taken to police headquarters where he was asked a series of questions.
“I answered truthfully,” he said. “They asked me if I worked at the store. I told them ‘no’ and that I was a student pursuing two fields.
Bobbitt-Salaam claims he attends American Beauty Academy and will return to the Delaware County Technical School of Nursing in September to pursue careers In barbering as well as nursing. While Bobbitt-Salaam says he had nothing to do with any illegal business at the store, he also admits to often going inside.
“It’s my father’s store so of course I would frequent the store,” he said. “Of course I would be there from time to time. There’s a barbershop next door to the store so I’d be in the barbershop practicing my craft.”
After speaking with investigators, Bobbitt-Salaam claims the officers gave him the impression that the charges against him would be dropped.
“They kind of gave me a false hope,” he said. “They didn’t say I was going to be released but they said to just answer a few questions. They hinted that I would be released.”
Bobbitt-Salaam says he was then sent to a holding cell with his father who vouched for his son’s innocence.
“He told them I had nothing to do with it,” Bobbitt-Salaam said. “I told them I had nothing to do with the situation. It just kind of went on deaf ears. They ignored the situation. Next thing you know they sent down charges that they gave to my father then all of a sudden they put the charges on me too.”
Despite the fact that officials conducted a year-long investigation prior to his arrest, Bobbitt-Salaam still claims he was wrongfully arrested.
“If you did a year-long investigation then you would know that I’m really not even at the store because I’m in school,” he said. “To do a year-long investigation and come up with that information makes no sense.”
While the accusations against him and his father have not yet been proven in the court of law, Bobbitt-Salaam, who is pursuing careers in barbering and nursing, claims the damage to his reputation has already been done.
“Due to this situation I can’t even go to school,” he said. “These kinds of accusations, you can’t receive licenses in any of those fields with these kinds of charges. Even if I’m proven innocent, people don’t forget, it’s still there. It puts me in a bind. I just feel like it’s unjust. This has really put me in a deep depression.”
Bobbitt-Salaam admits that he’s been in “minor trouble” in the past but has never faced accusations as serious as the ones he currently faces. While he’s in the process of obtaining a lawyer, he claims he doesn’t plan on taking any legal action.
“I don’t wanna receive any handouts,” he said. “I don’t wanna add anymore wood to the fire. I just wanna be vindicated. I don’t have any ill will towards anyone. They did their jobs. But I just think a mistake was made.”
NBC10 reached out to Public Information Officer Emily Harris of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office for a response to Bobbitt-Salaam's comments.
“I really can’t comment as to why he would say that,” Harris said. “Those are the charges that stand. He will remain charged until he’s found guilty or innocent in court.”
Bobbitt-Salaam and his father are both due in court on April 29 for a preliminary hearing.