NEW ORLEANS - Representatives of industry and local and federal law enforcement agencies attended a group session to discuss the emerging threat of intellectual property rights (IPR) theft and its connection to organized crime and terrorism.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge C. Vernon Francis welcomed the group and provided opening remarks.
"The trade in counterfeit goods costs legitimate businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. The illicit proceeds also support other criminal activities in the U.S. and around the world," said Francis. "ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity."
IPR Center National Program Manager Thomas Hipelius discussed the IPR Center's national coordination efforts with state and local law enforcement.
A number of presentations followed, including an industry focus on current trends and emerging threats. HSI Senior Special Agent Michael Manning cited cases that linked intellectual property (IP) theft with criminal activity. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Cox and Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Douglas Freese provided an overview of federal and state statutes that apply to the seizure of counterfeit merchandise and the criminal prosecution of trafficking organizations.
Many vendors are unaware that merchandise is counterfeit. More often though, dealers know full well the products are fakes. Merchants who knowingly sell counterfeit goods face criminal prosecution in addition to having their merchandise seized.
In fiscal year 2009, ICE partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) making 14,841 seizures of counterfeit or pirated merchandise nationwide with a domestic value of over $260 million. During that same period, ICE made 414 criminal arrests, had 160 indictments, and had 203 criminal convictions for IP theft crimes.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such activity. 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.