Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News
Federal agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations shut down Teskey's Saddle Shop in Weatherford and the owners say it's all because of the labels on products sold there.
Federal agents spent Wednesday at a Parker County saddle and western wear store investigating allegations over the labeling of imported goods, the store said.
Teskey's Saddle Shop, which started out in the owner's garage in Weatherford before moving to its current six-acre site off Interstate 20, was shut for the day while Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations agents served a federal search warrant.
ICE would not confirm what the search was about, but the shop owners said it was over the labeling of imported goods sold at the store.
It's is against the law to label goods as made in the United States if they are imported from elsewhere. Such goods also must have a label stating their country of origin.
Anissa and Michael Teskey said the main goods in question was several belts imported from Mexico that never had a label saying they were made in Mexico.
"We do everything else by the book," Anissa Teskey said. "We pay our bills, pay our taxes. We're upstanding citizens in the community. If we had any idea, by all of means, we would have taken care of it."
"We wouldn't have jeopardized what we built here for anything like that," Michael Teskey said.
Michael Teskey said that they would place their own store's label, with price tag and bar code that said "Teskey's, Weatherford, Texas," on the belts. But none of those labels said the products were made in Texas or the USA. They did say that the occasional nuisance label saying where a product originated would be removed from time to time, as well, but never replaced.
"It is the law; being dumb to the law is not a good excuse, but it is what it is," Michael Teskey said in regards to not knowing about the federal statute.
The Teskeys said agents told them they would not be made examples of but would likely have to meet with the local U.S. Attorney's Office over the issue.
They said they were never told or informed they were in violation of the law until Wednesday morning, when the agents showed up en mass. The Teskeys wouldn't say how much business they lost with the daylong closure, but were more worried about rumors circulating on social media about why the agents were there.
They posted the following note on the store's Facebook page:
"The rumors are flying which is very disappointing. We want to clear up any questions. The investigation is being done by customs agents which are a part of homeland security. They are investigating a violation of the law Marking of Imported Articles 19 USC 1304. There are no other violations. It's unfortunate to hear about the rumors of drugs and tax evasion which are absolutely untrue. We have been an upstanding business and upstanding people in our community since the day we opened our doors. We appreciate all of our friends & their support with spreading the truth and not the rumors. Thank you!!"
The Teskeys said the federal agents towed away a truck and travel trailer that was used to pick up the items that violated U.S. law.
ICE issued the following statement to NBC 5 regarding the investigation:
"Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are currently conducting an operation in support of a criminal investigation. Due to the ongoing operation and investigation, no further details can be released at this time."
The couple said they will reopen on Thursday and will have proper labels so as to not violate the federal law again.
Outside the gate, Teskey's customers were turned away by federal agents. Many said they were shocked about the investigation, though didn't know what it was about at the time. All customers NBC 5 spoke with said the store is friendly and said they couldn't imagine them doing anything wrong.
The Teskeys said federal agents were also at their second location, Teskey's Uptown in Fort Worth's West Seventh Development, on Wednesday morning. The agents were there for about 45 minutes before leaving. The store remained open later in the day.
Another company behind Teskeys was also under investigation for similar violations.