SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - More than 22,000 counterfeit CDs and DVDs being sold in flea markets in Ponce, Salinas, Santa Isabel and Coamo were seized Sunday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents as part of a targeted enforcement operation.
Operation Captain Morgan is part of an ongoing ICE initiative in Puerto Rico that began in October 2008 to target vendors involved in intellectual property rights (IPR) violations. The 22,728 items seized have an estimated street value of $85,390. ICE special agents also seized $664 of illicit proceeds derived from the sale of counterfeit products.
"Counterfeiters cost legitimate businesses billions in lost revenue," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "Our agency is committed to identifying and seizing these counterfeit products before they are sold to consumers."
Although there were no arrests during the operation, ICE special agents interviewed vendors of counterfeit merchandise and advised them that they were violating the law. Individuals charged and convicted for IPR violations may face up to 10 years in prison.
In recent years, counterfeiting, piracy and other IPR violations have grown in magnitude and complexity, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion per year and a total of 750,000 American jobs.
The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of technology that enables the simple and low-cost duplication of copyrighted products, as well as by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit. In many cases, the enormous profits derived from the sale of counterfeit goods are used by international organized crime groups to bankroll other criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations not only focus on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.