The enforcement surge, conducted by officers and import specialists from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), resulted in the interdiction of a wide variety of suspected counterfeit merchandise, including headphones, sports jerseys and cell phone accessories. Once it is determined that the items are counterfeit, CBP will seize the merchandise.
CBP and HSI representatives say many of the intercepted items were likely destined for unscrupulous vendors for intended resale. HSI will be conducting follow-up investigations to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute those cases. However, authorities note that at least some of the parcels were being shipped directly to consumers, many whom may not have realized they were buying counterfeits.
"We're endeavoring to protect not only the companies that make copyrighted products, but also unwitting buyers who get fleeced by these fakes," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Consumers order merchandise online believing they're getting the genuine article, only to receive a shoddy and sometimes dangerous counterfeit version."
CBP officials say counterfeit goods are increasingly coming into the United States in smaller parcels versus larger shipments through the express cargo facilities. The trend, which authorities attribute in part to increased sales traffic over the Internet, has resulted in a heightened emphasis on screenings at major air cargo facilities, including this week's operation in Los Angeles.
"Operation Holiday Hoax is a prime example of the cooperation and partnership between agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to achieve the mutual goal of protecting consumers, legitimate manufacturers and distributors from the health and economic hazards of counterfeit merchandise flooding the markets during the holiday season," said Todd C. Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles.
Nationally and internationally, Operation Holiday Hoax began Nov. 26 and is scheduled to run until Dec. 26. During that time, federal and local law enforcement officers will seize products such as electronics, clothing, DVDs and toys. As in years past, most of these items are ordered online as part of the holiday shopping season.
This is the third year that the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center in Virginia has conducted Operation Holiday Hoax. Last year's operation led to the seizure of more than 327,000 counterfeit and pirated items nationwide with an estimated value based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price, of nearly $77 million. In 2009 the operation netted more than $26 million worth of seized goods.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.