The Department of Homeland Security carried out raids this week ahead of the Super Bowl in an ongoing effort to block counterfeit sports apparel and merchandise that is smuggled into the country, principally from China.
“Make no bones about it, this is smuggling,” said Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center Director Bruce Foucart.
Over the past year, investigators seized more than 440,000 sports-related items worth an estimated $39 million as a part of its “Operation Team Player,” a coordinated effort between the IPR Center and professional sports teams.
That’s 100,000 items more than last year, according to numbers released today by the IPR Center.
The year-long operation, carried out by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partners, also resulted in the arrest of 41 people and 35 convictions.
In San Francisco, where Super Bowl 50 is taking place, the agency recently made 220 seizures of counterfeit goods worth $1.5 million.
Over the past week there, special agents from HSI and Customs and Border Protection, along with local law enforcement and the worked together to track down street vendors, flea markets and retail outlets selling counterfeit goods.
“Criminals selling counterfeit goods often use big events like the Super Bowl to trick consumers into buying high-priced, low-quality fakes,” said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center in a statement Thursday about this week’s seizures.
Fake jerseys, hats and cellphone accessories were among the thousands of items they seized.
However, selling counterfeit items is often a “low risk, high reward” business, so criminals turn to it to fund other illegal activities, said Foucart.
“We certainly have a lot of criminals here that try to take advantage,” he said.