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Sunday, February 5, 2023

CBP Seizes Counterfeit Guitars, Pills, Apparel and Accessories at U.S. Airports and Seaports

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers assigned to the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport in coordination with import specialists from the Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising; Apparel, Footwear and Textiles, and the Pharmaceuticals, Health and Chemicals Centers of Excellence and Expertise seized 57,607 counterfeit products arriving in a containerized cargo shipment from China.

The seized items included 47,490 counterfeit Cialis pills and 10,117 pieces of apparel and footwear in violation of the Christian Dior, Versace, Gucci, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Nike Air and Swoosh designs and registered and recorded trademarks. If genuine, the seized merchandise would have had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $12,709,782.

CBP officers, in coordination with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, seized all counterfeit items and turned them over to the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Commercial Crimes Division, Illicit Pharmaceutical and Counterfeit Unit (IPCU) for further investigation.

Meanwhile, on June 15, CBP officers and import specialists seized counterfeit Rolex watches at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The CBP officers inspected a shipment from Hong Kong and discovered and seized 19 Rolex watches that would have been worth an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $285,000 had they been genuine. 

CBP officers referred all seizure information, including photographs, to CBP import specialists to verify the authenticity of the merchandise and to confirm possible trademark violations. The Consumer Products and Mass Merchandise Center of Excellence and Expertise determined the entire shipment of 19 Rolex watches was counterfeit. The shipment was seized.

And at Washington Dulles International Airport, CBP officers seized 85 counterfeit guitars just five months after seizing an earlier shipment of 36 guitars. CBP officers inspected and detained the latest suspected counterfeit cache from China on March 31. They then consulted with CBP’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising experts at the agency’s Centers for Excellence and Expertise who worked with trademark holders and confirmed on May 28 that the guitars indeed violated guitar manufacturers’ trademark protections. Officers completed the seizure on June 9.

The collection consisted mostly of Gibson models (72 guitars), but also included models from CF Martin, Fender, Kramer and Taylor. The highest value model was a Les Paul guitar supposedly autographed by Guns and Roses guitarist Slash appraised at $8,000, if authentic. Other guitars bore autographs from renowned guitarist Les Paul and AC/DC’s Angus Young. The entire lot of guitars would have had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $258,707 if they were authentic.

The guitars were destined to addresses in 31 states, with California as lead with 10 guitars. Locally, four were destined to Virginia, three each to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, two to West Virginia, and one to Delaware.

Available on illegitimate websites and sold in underground outlets, counterfeit commodities multiply the illegal profits of smugglers and traffickers. Consumers are tricked into believing they are buying an original product at a significant discount.

In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP personnel nationwide seized 26,503 shipments containing counterfeit goods that would have been worth nearly $1.3 billion had they been genuine.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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