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November 14, 2019New Orleans, LA, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE HSI New Orleans seizes $8 million in counterfeit goods during pre-holiday IPR surge operation

HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Jere Miles announces the results of an IPR surge operation resulting in the seizure of more than 33,000 counterfeit items valued at more than $8 million.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans announced the results of a month-long Intellectual Property Rights surge operation Nov. 13 that overlapped the Halloween and holiday shopping seasons resulting the seizure of more than 33,000 counterfeit items valued at more than $8 million.

The three-state HSI-led operation in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi was supported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana National Guard, Hot Springs Police, Garland County Sheriff’s Office, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, with support from the U.S. Attorney Eastern District of Louisiana.

This operation vastly exceeded the HSI New Orleans 2018 totals, which resulted in 6,800 seized items valued at $800,000.

Beginning the week prior to Halloween, more than two-dozen HSI New Orleans special agents began conducting surveillance of area business locations ultimately identifying numerous vendors engaged in the illegal sale of counterfeit goods, with an emphasis on Halloween-related items such as cosmetic contact lenses and makeup that pose a potential public safety threat due to possible bacterial and heavy metals contamination.

During the second phase of the operation after Halloween, HSI New Orleans shifted focus to the holiday gift-buying season and seized cosmetics, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, cell phones and cell phone accessories, DVDs, music CDs, sports memorabilia, designer clothing, shoes, sunglasses, handbags and wallets.

At a news conference announcing the operation’s results, HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Jere T. Miles explained to the public why IPR enforcement is a priority for HSI amongst all the federal crimes the agency is tasked with investigating.

“While consumers may think they’re saving a few dollars the reality is transnational criminal organizations use counterfeiting as a revenue stream to fund other large-scale criminal activities,” said SAC Miles. “These criminals have zero concern for anyone harmed by contaminated or inferior counterfeit products so HSI’s focus in this area serves to protect consumer safety while also cutting off a source of revenue to the large-scale criminal organizations behind these products.”

“We commend our DHS partners for working together to bring criminals to justice who are exploiting the New Orleans area. The New Orleans Border Patrol Sector is proud to have played a role in supporting HSI and CBP’s Office of Field Operations in protecting our community and keeping our city safe,” said U.S Border Patrol – New Orleans Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino.

“The Port of New Orleans has been a longtime partner with HSI in the effort to protect intellectual property rights. Operation Safety Claus is a powerful initiative for consumer safety, and I commend all of our DHS partners for their outstanding work,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection – New Orleans Director of Field Operations Steven Stavinoha.

In fiscal year 2019, HSI as a whole seized more than $800 million in counterfeit goods, and made more than 350 criminal arrests related to support of IPR enforcement operations.

The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination 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 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft.

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To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit