On Sunday, April 22, HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at the Patapsco Flea Market at 1400 W. Patapsco Avenue in Baltimore as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The enforcement operation was based on specific information developed during a two and a half year long investigation by HSI Baltimore involving violations of intellectual property rights law. Over the course of numerous days, HSI special agents, with assistance from law enforcement and industry partners, seized nearly 220,000 counterfeit items including clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, DVDs, CDs, perfume, make-up and other personal care items. If those items were legitimate, the total manufacturer's suggested retail price would be approximately $47.3 million.
The HSI Baltimore investigation identified numerous vendors selling counterfeit goods with brand names such as M·A·C, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach, Kate Spade, NFL, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, Dooney & Bourke, Ralph Lauren Polo, Lacoste, North Face, Rocawear, Ed Hardy, Chanel, Tiffany, Timberland, Uggs, Sony, Apple, Coogi, Black Label, Under Armour and Affliction, among others. The multi-day operation also netted the seizure of approximately $1.5 million in suspected criminal proceeds.
"The illegal importation and sale of counterfeit goods is a significant problem that affects our economy, impacts American jobs and innovation, puts the public's health and safety at risk and at times threatens our national security," said William Winter, special agent in charge for HSI Baltimore. "Consumers should know that if they buy pirated and unlicensed products, they are hurting legitimate businesses and they may also be facilitating criminal activity."
The following law enforcement and industry partners also participated in the operation: Maryland State Police, Baltimore Police Department, Under Armour, Estee Lauder, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Blazer Investigations, representing numerous trademarked brand names, was also on site assisting with the identification of counterfeit goods.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI takes a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.
Operations such as the one conducted at the Patapsco Flea Market are coordinated through the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters. To report IP theft or to learn more about the HSI-led IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.