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Intellectual Property Rights

ICE-led task force seizes nearly $500,000 worth of phony NFL merchandise and sports memorabilia

PHOENIX - A week-long enforcement blitz led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeting the sale of counterfeit sports merchandise during Super Bowl XLII led to the seizure of more than 9,500 pieces of clothing and sports memorabilia valued at nearly a half-million dollars.

As part of the crackdown, ICE agents and officers from the Glendale and Phoenix police departments arrested 24 individuals who now face charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods. The ICE-led enforcement effort, which also included investigators under contract to the NFL, focused on counterfeit items being sold by stores and street vendors across the Phoenix metropolitan area.

In one of the enforcement actions, ICE agents and an NFL investigator descended on a sports memorabilia store in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 26, seizing an array of counterfeit items, including a signed football jersey retailing for more than $2,000.

"Enforcing America's counterfeiting laws is about protecting the rights of those who play by the rules," said Alonzo Pena, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Arizona. "We have no tolerance for the criminals who seek to profit from sub-standard and fake merchandise at the expense of the public."

In fiscal year 2007, ICE partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize nearly $200 million in counterfeit or pirated merchandise nationwide. During that same period, ICE and CBP made more than 13,600 IPR seizures, resulting in 241 arrests, 149 indictments, and 134 criminal convictions.

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 this 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.