Why is ICE at the Super Bowl?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been a constant presence at the Super Bowl for many years, having built and maintained a successful partnership with the National Football League. This year, HSI personnel in Miami will work with a range of federal, state and local law enforcement partners throughout Super Bowl week to provide essential public safety measures in and around the city to help combat many of the criminal threats the league and host city might face leading up to and throughout the big game February 2, 2020.
Why is HSI involved in preventing the sale of counterfeit products?
The illegal manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods is one of the primary concerns of HSI, as it is for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), which includes many additional federal and international partners. It is criminal activity that endangers public health, harms the economy and restricts the competitiveness of U.S. products in the global market.
As part of those efforts, Operation Team Player, an ongoing effort developed by the IPR Center to crack down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and merchandise, has worked through the year to identify warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit and game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the country. The IPR Center leads coordinated efforts with many of the United States’ major sporting leagues to target contraband that negatively impacts the economy, enables additional criminality and poses health and safety hazards to the public.
As in years past, effective teamwork will be the key to success on and off the field during Super Bowl LIV. For HSI, the size and scope of the task will again be met with personnel who are prepared to successfully execute the agency’s game plan and safeguard the city and everyone traveling to and from the Super Bowl.
With Super Bowl week winding down, the men and women of HSI remain hard at work, focused on ensuring the safety and security of everyone who has come to Miami for the game itself and all of the surrounding festivities.
As the Chiefs and the 49ers are finalizing their game plans with an eye on bringing home the coveted Lombardi trophy, members of HSI’s elite Special Response Teams are standing by at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, ready to move out at a moment’s notice and join their law enforcement partners throughout the region to provide whatever assistance may be needed.
Special agents and investigators with HSI’s IPR unit will also be busy until the opening kickoff, protecting fans by looking out for and arresting counterfeit ticket sellers and continuing to confiscate phony, sub-standard team merchandise in the parking lots and other areas around the stadium.
As the pre-game festivities wrap up Sunday afternoon, all that’s left are the words of country music legend Hank Williams, Jr. hanging in the air – “are you ready for some football?!”
A critical objective of HSI’s efforts throughout Super Bowl week is effectively partnering with state and local law enforcement, private industry and non-governmental organizations to provide essential public outreach and victim support in the nationwide battle against human trafficking.
Here in Miami, HSI personnel are working closely with the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force to help the greater Miami area understand and more easily spot the indicators of human trafficking in their communities and help dispel the myths about who can be a victim of this terrible crime.
HSI is committed to ensuring that everyone who has come to South Florida to enjoy the Super Bowl has done so of their own free will, and that those individuals and organizations involved in human trafficking and sexual exploitation networks are held accountable for their crimes.
At a Thursday morning press conference, federal agents with ICE HSI announced the seizure of more than 176,000 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $123 million manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), through a collaborative enforcement operation with CBP targeting international shipments of counterfeit merchandise into the United States. The National Football League and Miami-Dade Police department joined ICE and CBP for the announcement just days before Super Bowl LIV.
Through the ongoing initiative known as Operation Team Player, developed by the HSI-led IPR Center, ICE and CBP join with state and local law enforcement partners across the country, targeting the illegal manufacture, import, and distribution of counterfeit sports merchandise.
“Every day, cargo containers containing billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods enter the United States through its land, sea and air ports of entry. This year’s record-breaking ‘Operation Team Player’ results affirm HSI’s commitment to protecting American consumers, the economy, and legitimate business, by ensuring the Super Bowl is not compromised by transnational criminal networks exploiting fan enthusiasm for illicit profits,” said HSI-led IPR Center Director Steve Francis.
Special agents from HSI teamed with industry partners, CBP, Miami-Dade police officers and other agencies to identify flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV. They seized fake jerseys, jewelry, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other bogus items prepared to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.
The IPR Center – formally codified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 – is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 25 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft and its enforcement of international trade laws.
The Super Bowl is one of the largest sporting events of the year, with an estimated 65,000 expected in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. In the days leading up to the game, upwards of one million people have attended and taken part in various Super Bowl-related events.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the Super Bowl a Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) 1 event. The rating determines the risk level for events that may be considered as potential threat targets and helps determine the security resources needed for the event.
To support federal law enforcement security efforts for an event of this magnitude, HSI is using two of its five mobile command centers. One is focused on supporting the maritime security operations in South Florida and a second one is being used to help combat human trafficking.
HSI’s mobile command centers support operations in national security events where stand-alone voice and data networks are needed. The centers also have high speed internet, satellite and cellular connections and possess the ability to support all radio frequencies used by everyone from law enforcement to amateur radio owners.
The following video gives a sneak peek at how HSI’s mobile command centers are keeping fans safe in Miami.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations is committed to ending human trafficking and rescuing those who fall victim to this horrifying criminal activity. Watch as HSI Special Agent Katina Hernandez discusses the agency’s efforts in and around Miami as Super Bowl LIV is about to take place Sunday, February 2, 2020.
As a member of HSI’s human trafficking group in Miami, Special Agent Hernandez shares some of the key indicators that many human trafficking victims display as the agency works to educate the public and enlist their support in uncovering instances of possible human trafficking throughout South Florida in the runup to the big game.
The Miami area, she says, poses a unique set of operational challenges with its beaches, nightlife and general party-like atmosphere. The flurry of activity associated with a sporting event the magnitude of the Super Bowl makes it all the more likely criminal organizations will seek to exploit the massive crowds with increased criminal activity.
With assistance from ICE Tech Ops personnel across the country, HSI Miami began securing the city and surrounding areas for Sunday’s Super Bowl 54 more than two months ago, in November 2019.
As hundreds of thousands of fans descended on South Florida, HSI worked closely with the City of Miami and Miami Beach police departments to improve security surveillance throughout the region so that law enforcement could respond quickly and effectively to any situation.
Installing a stand-alone communications network in an area as large as Miami is a massive undertaking and, as ASAC Rivera makes clear in the following video, HSI Tech Ops will remain onsite up to and throughout the big game on Sunday to ensure everything works exactly as intended and are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice should any of the technology require their attention.
As the sports world descends upon South Florida to watch the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54, HSI personnel have already kicked off their game plan to provide a safe and secure environment for the public throughout the week. Using its unique expertise, HSI is supporting the security plans for the Super Bowl along with various state and local partners. HSI special agents are working to combat human trafficking and protect intellectual property rights. The Special Response Team (SRT) is on hand in the event a critical incidence takes place.
“In an event of this magnitude, no one entity can safeguard all the venues by itself,” said HSI Miami Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury. “It requires all hands on deck, making sure we’re working together keeping a safe environment in Miami.”
The following video gives an overview of why HSI has a presence at the Super Bowl.
The HSI-led IPR Center is at the forefront of coordinated efforts in Miami to search for counterfeit merchandise associated with Super Bowl 54. Since its inception 12 years ago the IPR Center has provided public engagement and critical law enforcement training to partners from more than 100 countries.
As with many of our joint investigative priorities, an informed public adds greater strength to our daily efforts to deny transnational criminal organizations the essential payday they need to carry out additional criminal activity.
Follow along as HSI Miami special agents conduct an undercover operation to seize counterfeit jerseys and t-shirts. The operation resulted in the arrest of two individuals who were attempting to sell counterfeit merchandise to an undercover operative.
“If you’re selling counterfeit merchandise or manufacturing counterfeit merchandise in Miami and we encounter you, you’re going to jail,” said HSI Miami Special Agent Timothy Sauer.