$5M Seized in Fake Super Bowl Souvenirs

Andrew McLees, special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with seized counterfeit NFL football merchandise, Feb. 2, 2012, in Newark, N.J.                                                                                           (Image credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

The New England Patriots aren't the only ones who had a bad Super Bowl Sunday. Counterfeiters and vendors trying to make a buck hawking fake NFL t-shirts, caps and souvenirs, found themselves in the cross hairs of a federal crackdown that seized more than $5 million in counterfeit NFL goods, according to federal officials.

The nationwide, multi-agency law enforcement operation targeted stores, flea markets and street vendors selling knock-off, game-related sportswear in Indianapolis, and throughout the country.

And the effort didn't end with the retail outlets. Special agents and officers also targeted illegal counterfeit imports into the United States, and seized hundreds of websites engaged in selling counterfeit NFL gear or illegally streaming NFL games.

"In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law," ICE Director John Morton said, in a statement.

The Super Bowl is traditionally a bonanza for counterfeiters, who rip-off NFL team logos and images to create knock-off t-shirts, caps, jackets and trinkets to sell to souvenir-hungry fans.  But this year, law enforcement and the NFL geared up to defend against the counterfeit offensive. "Operation Fake Sweep," launched Oct. 1, was a joint effort of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana State Police, all in partnership with the NFL.

This morning, just as a massive crowd of New York Giants fans gathered along New York City's "Canyon of Heroes,"  for a ticker tape parade to celebrate the team's win, ICE sent out an updated release, announcing the impact of Operation Fake Sweep.

  • Authorities seized 50,703 items of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia, and other counterfeit items, with a total value of $5.12 million.
  • In addition to Super Bowl gear, another 22,570 items of counterfeit merchandise and clothing representing other sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League were seized by law enforcement.
  • In total, the operation netted 73,273 counterfeit items worth $6.69 million.
  • On line merchants were not exempt; special agents seized 386 websites. As many as 370 domain names were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise. And 16 of the sites illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games, according to ICE.   Authorities placed a banner reading "Seized" over the websites, and are investigating the operators.

Yonjo Quiroa, 28, allegedly operated nine of the 16 websites seized by authorities for illegally streaming live sporting events, from his home in Comstock Park, Mich. He was arrested last week and charged with criminal infringement  of a copyright.

"American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material and produce counterfeit trademarked goods," the release said.