ATLANTA - Representatives of industry and local and federal law enforcement agencies attended a group session held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to discuss the emerging threat of intellectual property rights (IPR) theft and its connection to organized crime and terrorism.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Andrews welcomed the group and provided opening remarks. "The trade in counterfeit goods costs legitimate businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue, along with hundreds of thousands of American jobs. The illicit proceeds also support other criminal activities in the U.S. and around the world," said Andrews. "ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity. Of particular concern to ICE is the potential impact on the health and safety of the American public due to the threat posed by the importation and distribution of counterfeit and substandard products such as pharmaceuticals and electrical components."
IPR Center National Program Manger Heather O'Malley discussed the IPR Center's national coordination efforts with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
A number of presentations followed, including an industry focus on current trends and emerging threats. HSI agents also cited case examples that linked intellectual property (IP) theft with criminal activity. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Pearce provided an overview of federal statutes that apply to the seizure of counterfeit merchandise and the criminal prosecution of trafficking organizations, and industry representatives provided investigators with information on emerging trends.
Many vendors are unaware that merchandise is counterfeit. More often though, dealers know full well the products are fakes. Merchants who knowingly sell counterfeit goods face criminal prosecution in addition to having their merchandise seized.
In fiscal year 2009, ICE partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) making 14,841 seizures of counterfeit or pirated merchandise nationwide with a domestic value of over $260 million. During that same period, ICE made 414 criminal arrests, had 160 indictments, and had 203 criminal convictions for IP theft crimes.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such activity. ICE manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government's domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations. ICE agents and CBP personnel throughout the country rely upon the IPR Coordination Center for guidance in their inspections and investigations.