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DETROIT - More than 300,000 suspected counterfeit DVDs were seized over the weekend in Chicago and Detroit, following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation that originated in Detroit.

The investigation began earlier this year and yielded intelligence regarding a major reseller and online vendor of suspected counterfeit DVDs.

The merchandise was shipped from China through Chicago and destined for Detroit. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Chicago intercepted the shipment earlier this month and discovered it contained suspected counterfeit merchandise.

CBP then informed the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. ICE's subsequent investigation revealed the shipment contained counterfeit DVDs with a suggested retail price of $1.4 million.

Based on this information, ICE agents in Detroit followed delivery of the items, and served a federal search warrant at a warehouse in Oxford, Mich., where they seized the merchandise this weekend.

"In recent years, with the advances in technology, the proliferation of counterfeit goods is increasing at an alarming rate," said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Michigan and Ohio. "ICE investigations into these intellectual property rights violations help protect the American consumer by keeping counterfeit merchandise off the shelves."

Counterfeiting, piracy and other IPR violations have grown in magnitude and complexity as technology facilitates this crime, 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 billion and $250 billion per year, and more than 750,000 American jobs.

The growth in IPR violations has been fueled in part by the spread of technology that enables simple and low-cost duplication of copyrighted products. This growth is also fueled by the rise in organized crime groups that smuggle and distribute counterfeit merchandise for profit. In many cases, international organized crime groups use the enormous profits derived from selling counterfeit goods to bankroll other criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking.

Anyone with information related to counterfeit merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. The public may also call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1 (866) DHS-2ICE.

Although there were no arrests during the operation, ICE special agents interviewed vendors of the counterfeit merchandise and advised them that they were violating the law. The investigation continues. Individuals charged and convicted for IPR violations could face up to 10 years in prison.