PHOENIX — With the clock ticking down to the Super Bowl kickoff, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), together with the Phoenix Glendale police departments issued a warning to vendors hoping to cash in on the event by selling counterfeit merchandise – “buyer beware.”
At a news conference Friday, representatives from the three agencies detailed the results of three intellectual property theft cases, including two involving HSI. The seized goods included counterfeit National Football League (NFL) branded sportswear, designer clothing, videos, smartphones and even electronic audio products worth over $800,000. The estimate is based on the retail value of the items had they been genuine. These seizure cases have led to the arrest of five individuals who are facing state charges.
As part of the ongoing effort to deter intellectual property crime, HSI and the Phoenix and Glendale police departments are partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The law enforcement agencies are, in turn, coordinating closely with the National Football League to identify known distributors of counterfeit goods and the venues where the merchandise is sold.
At Friday’s news conference, HSI Special Agent in Charge Matthew Allen noted that HSI, as the federal agency tapped to coordinate federal participation in this year’s Super Bowl, is focused on combatting all kinds of organized criminal activity associated with this major sporting event, including intellectual property violations.
“CBP consistently works within DHS, as well as with other law enforcement agencies to prevent counterfeit contraband from entering U.S. markets,” said William K. Brooks, director of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, Tucson Field Office. “We’re glad to have played a role in these significant cases.”
Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and HSI seized more than 24,000 counterfeit items nationwide, up seven percent compared to the previous year. Had the seized goods been genuine, they would have retailed for more than $1.7 billion.
“The economic impact created by the sale of these counterfeit goods and services to our community is staggering in itself, but preventing our residents and visitors from being victimized by fraudulent activity during an event such as the Super Bowl is our responsibility” said Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Dave Harvey.
“Public Safety is committed to sharing information to protect our residents and visitors from becoming victims,” said Glendale Police Chief Debora Black. “Those who produce and market counterfeit merchandise exploit consumers looking for a bargain, and subject them to greater risk of fraud or identity theft when credit cards are used. Counterfeit tickets present significant exposure; we join the NFL in cautioning fans against buying tickets for cash on the street, warning that even real looking fakes will not gain entry into the game.”
The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.
To report intellectual property theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.