SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with officers from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, seized $136,000 in counterfeit and pirated merchandise as part of Operation Forged Dreams. The operation took place Saturday with the assistance of the Food and Drug Administration, the Puerto Rico Department of Health's Office of Investigations, the Puerto Rico Police Department and the San Juan Municipal Police.
"Stealing intellectual property is not a victimless crime," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "The bottom line is counterfeit and pirated goods steal revenue from legitimate businesses and shortchange buyers who think they're getting the real deal. Those involved in intellectual property rights violations should take note that we are actively looking for contraband on a daily basis and counterfeit goods will be seized and violators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
During the operation, HSI special agents and partner law enforcement officers targeted five retailers of counterfeit and pirated goods at locations in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Caguas, Toa Alta, Mayaguez and San Juan. They seized 1,587 CDs, 4,238 DVDs, 1,650 contact lenses, 492 T-shirts, 98 pairs of tennis shoes and 72 hats infringing on the trademark of Freshlook Hollywood contact lenses, Nike, Adidas, Gucci, NBA and Asics. The total manufacturer's suggested retail value of the seized goods is approximately $136,000.
This is the fourth seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods by HSI San Juan in the last seven months. During a four-day operation in February, HSI special agents and their partners targeted 15 retailers of counterfeit goods at prominent locations in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Carolina, Toa Baja, Caguas, Bayamon, Guaynabo and San Juan. The seized items included counterfeit designer clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, handbags, sunglasses and sportswear with a total manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $4,788,032. During a two-day operation in December 2012, HSI special agents and their partners targeted 17 retailers of counterfeit goods in the municipalities of Bayamon, Caguas, Canovanas, Ponce and San Juan. They seized 4,749 counterfeit items infringing on the trademark of more than 38 brands. The total MSRP of the seized goods was approximately $2 million. In September 2012, HSI special agents seized more than $18 million in counterfeit contact lenses and other merchandise during the execution of several search warrants in eight municipalities.
Operation Forged Dreams is an HSI San Juan initiative with the intent of bringing a multi-agency and industry united front against individuals and organizations exploiting trade and financial systems by importing, exporting, selling, storing, manufacturing or otherwise handling counterfeit and pirated goods that may present a hazard to public health and safety.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI investigations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such activity.
This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.
For more information on the IPR Center please visit www.IPRCenter.gov.
HSI encourages the public to report intellectual property rights violations and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by visiting www.ICE.gov/tips. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.