TAMPA, Fla. - A three-day joint law enforcement operation between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Tampa Police Department (TPD) and the National Football League (NFL) resulted in the arrest of one local man and the seizure of 826 pieces of Super Bowl XLIII counterfeit merchandise valued at $115,795 along with the seizure of non-NFL counterfeit merchandise valued at more than $1 million.
Junior Raphael Prentice, 38, was arrested yesterday by TPD and charged in connection with the illicit sale of counterfeit items. He has been charged with two counts of distributing goods with a counterfeit trademark. Prentice is currently detained at the Orient Road Jail awaiting the outcome of his case. Additional charges are pending as the investigation continues.
Prentice, who is a Tampa native, was selling counterfeit merchandise out of the International Flea Market located at 11309 N Nebraska Ave. in Tampa, Florida. His merchandise included counterfeit NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL sports memorabilia, Nike shoes, Ed Hardy apparel, Rolex watches and various brand name purses.
Other local Tampa establishments were found to be selling counterfeit items as well. In fact, several boxes of fake NFL jerseys were seized Monday by ICE agents, TPD detectives and NFL investigators from a store located in Ybor city. Agents and detectives found authentic NFL jerseys comingled with fake NFL jerseys.
ICE, TPD and the NFL will continue conducting investigations leading up to and following game day.
"Enforcing America's counterfeiting laws are about protecting the rights of those who play by the rules; it's about keeping America a global leader in intellectual property rights; it's about keeping sub-par and unsafe merchandise off our streets; and it's about trying to keep billions of dollars of illicit funds out of the hands of organized criminal groups here and abroad," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Tampa. "Major events such as the Super Bowl provide a great forum for us to educate the public about the hidden and often misunderstood dangers of this global criminal threat."
"The suspects who are selling these goods usually don't have a business license and they're not paying sales tax," said Major John Bennett with the Tampa Police Department. "We don't want them doing business before, during or after the Super Bowl. We owe a debt of gratitude to ICE and the NFL who brought in their expertise to be part of the Super Bowl surveillance teams. You can see from the large seizure that it was effective."
Counterfeiting, also known as IPR violations, involve the illegal use of trademarks, trade names and copyrights. It is estimated that the U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion to counterfeiting annually.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for manufacturing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE, TPD, and the NFL are committed to protecting legitimate businesses involved in the manufacturing, importation and distribution of licensed commodities from unscrupulous counterfeiters.
In pursuit of this goal, law enforcement here is soliciting the assistance of legitimate Super Bowl sponsors, licensees, manufacturers, importers and retailers of authorized Super Bowl XLIII merchandise, as well as the general public, to identify, interdict and enforce our nation's IPR laws.
Anyone with information related to counterfeit Super Bowl XLIII merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. Those with information may contact ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline by dialing 1 (866) DHS-2ICE.
In fiscal year 2008, ICE partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize nearly $272.7 million in counterfeit or pirated merchandise nationwide, a 38 percent increase in domestic value over FY 2007.
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.