An ICE and HSI operation has seized around $15.69 million worth of counterfeit sports- and entertainment-related merchandise, resulting in 65 arrests and 24 convictions.
Operation Team Player is a year-round effort from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to crack down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports- and entertainment-related goods. This year’s Operation Team Player started at the end of last year’s Super Bowl and it has seen a 16 percent increase in arrests. Agents targeted retail outlets, street vendors and flea markets to identify and seize contraband items, including fake jerseys, hats and cellphone accessories. Throughout the year, IPR, which closely coordinates with 23 agencies, has worked with major sporting leagues to identify contraband.
“Intellectual property theft is a serious crime, and black-market organizations descend on the Super Bowl and other major sporting events to sell counterfeit goods and substandard merchandise to unsuspecting consumers,” said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. “ICE agents are committed to investigating the trafficking of counterfeit goods that wreak havoc on local economies, threaten the health and safety of the American public and fund criminal organizations engaged in other illegal activities.”
David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Center, warned that fans need to be especially vigilant about what they are buying around the time of major sporting events such as the Super Bowl. “Counterfeiters sell substandard products, jeopardize consumers’ personal and financial information, and undermine American jobs and innovation,” Hirschmann said. “Fans deserve the real deal: Only purchase known brands from known sellers that bear the official holographic marks of authenticity.”