The First Family of Counterfeit Hunting
Robert Holmes taught his sons everything he knew about exposing black-market knockoffs. Now they take down the world's biggest scammers while dodging threats from the mob.
The flower arrangement was large and gaudy. “Sorry for your loss,” read the note accompanying the blooms. Rob Holmes squinted in surprise at the sender’s name: Ray West. Ray West didn’t exist. He was one of the online personas Rob adopted to hunt counterfeiters. And Rob hadn’t lost anyone. The note was a threat.
It was 2009 and the Russian mob had Rob in their sights. The company he runs with his younger brother Jason was on the trail of a huge counterfeit operation, an investigation that would eventually lead to the downfall of a Russian “spam gang,” a sophisticated group of mobsters responsible for a slew of websites advertising fake watches, handbags and accessories, as well as a third of the world’s spam emails.
The flowers, which Rob later discovered had been bought with his own hacked credit card, were an unmistakable warning. But the investigator was hardly spooked; he appreciated the theater. “It was pretty cool and dramatic,” he recalls, “like somet…