SAN FRANCISCO – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have two words for Bay Area vendors hoping to cash in on the World Series by selling counterfeit Major League Baseball (MLB) merchandise – "you're out!"
During enforcement actions last week that coincided with the initial two World Series games, HSI special agents seized nearly 1,200 items of counterfeit MLB clothing being offered for sale by vendors in and around AT&T Park. The merchandise included more than 1,000 phony t-shirts, along with counterfeit baseball hats and knit caps. Had the goods been genuine, they would have retailed domestically for more than $32,000.
"Preying on Bay Area baseball fans at a time when their pride and emotions are at their peak is a serious injustice in itself," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "But perhaps even more troubling is that the proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods, more often than not, are funneled into the coffers of streets gangs and other criminal organizations, which is why HSI takes such an aggressive stance towards these illegal activities."
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition estimates that product counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses more than $200 billion a year in lost revenue.
During the San Francisco Giants last World Series appearance in 2010, Bay Area HSI agents seized more than 2,400 items of counterfeit MLB merchandise, including shirts, bill caps, buttons and flags. The seized clothing was ultimately donated to World Vision for distribution to needy children and families overseas.
In fiscal year 2011, intellectual property rights enforcement by HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection led to more than 24,000 seizures, a 24 percent increase compared to the previous year. The seized goods had a total value of more than $1.1 billion, based upon the manufacturer's suggested retail price had the products been legitimate.