As shoppers began to look for deals on holiday gifts on Cyber Monday, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Justice Department were busy taking down websites that peddle counterfeit goods on the internet.
Working together, the two federal organizations executed court-authorized seizure orders against 150 websites, nearly double the number targeted last year, that were selling known counterfeit items ranging from professional sporting paraphernalia to pirated movies to high-end Louis Vuitton handbags.
"Through this operation we are aggressively targeting those who are selling counterfeit goods for their own personal gain while costing our economy much-needed revenue and jobs," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. "Intellectual property crimes harm businesses and consumers, alike, threatening economic opportunity and financial stability."
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The websites were seized as part of Operation In Our Sites, which has targeted websites that sell counterfeit goods since June 2010. Last year on Cyber Monday, ICE and the Justice Department seized 82 websites that were selling pirated goods.
"For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it's the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers," said ICE Director John Morton in a statement. "More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realize that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products. And the ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organized crime."
A Justice Department report on intellectual property released in June 2010 noted, "annually, copyright piracy affecting the U.S. motion pictures, sound recordings, business software and entertainment software/video game industries cost the U.S. Economy $58 billion in total output, 373,375 jobs, $16.3 billion in earnings, and $2.6 billion in Federal/state/local tax revenue."
"Most of the counterfeit items are from overseas," Morton said in a conference call with reporters today, noting that many of the websites are linked to entities in China.
The websites seized include jerseygreatdeal.com, nfljerseysworlds.com, uggbootsclearanceoutletstores.com, and pumaoutlets.net. Visitors to the websites will now find Justice Department and ICE logos with text noting, "This domain name has been seized by ICE- Homeland Security Investigations."