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February 10, 2021El Paso, TX, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE HSI El Paso, CBP seize more than $100,000 in counterfeit NFL, other sports-related merchandise

Operation Team Player is year-round effort, kicks off after every Super Bowl

EL PASO, Texas — Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Customs Border Protection (CBP) officers recently seized more than 200 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated merchandise suggested retail price (MSRP) of $102,600.

HSI special agents and CBP officers conducted joint enforcement operations from Jan. 22 through Feb. 5 and seized counterfeit merchandise in various locations in El Paso County, including an Eastside parking lot, a Lower Valley business, and a Horizon City residence.

“The Super Bowl may be over, but HSI special agents continue to look for distributors of counterfeit merchandise in our community that put at risk the health and safety of the American public, rob American workers of jobs, and adversely impact the U.S. economy,” said, Erik P. Breitzke, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso.

The agents and officers developed information and responded to tips from the public that resulted in the seizures. In addition, special agents and officers also encountered a vendor in the Lower Valley who was selling counterfeit NFL, NBA, and MLB jerseys as well as counterfeit Prada, Michael Kors, and Burberry purses and wallets.

All counterfeit items seized were in violation of Importation, Removal and Contrary to Law (19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)(2)(A).

The joint enforcement action was part of Operation Team Player, an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) nationwide effort that targets the importation, trafficking, and sale of counterfeit sports merchandise, apparel and tickets. Operation Team Player is an ongoing annual operation that begins after every Super Bowl and runs through the next one, targeting international shipments of counterfeit sports merchandise into the United States.

“The protection of intellectual property rights is part of the CBP trade enforcement mission,” said CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha. “Those looking to purchase sports memorabilia should do so from legitimate vendors. Buying anywhere else supports criminal activity and will generally leave you with a poorly made inferior product.”

Nationally, over the past year, HSI special agents seized more than 169,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $45 million.

IPR Operation Team Player combines HSI’s expertise in global trade to investigate financial fraud schemes, the importation of prohibited merchandise, and any other illicit criminal activities that may compromise legitimate trade, financial systems and/or endangers the public.

This operation is run by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), in collaboration with CBP, the NFL and other major sports leagues, to prevent the illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit sports merchandise.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 02/10/2021