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Intellectual Property Rights

ICE, local partners seize $1.5 million in counterfeit, pirated goods

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized $1.5 million in counterfeit and pirated merchandise as part of Operation Forged Dreams. The operation took place Sunday with assistance from the Puerto Rico Department of Health's Office of Investigations, the Puerto Rico Police Department and the Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs.

"Stealing intellectual property is not a victimless crime," said Angel Melendez, 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 23 retailers of counterfeit and pirated goods at the Arecibo flea market. They seized 10,000 CDs, 50,000 DVDs, 565 watches, 368 video games, 220 pieces of jewelry, 1,161 sunglasses and 204 handbags, among other items, infringing on the trademark of Gucci, Michael Kors, Microsoft, Nintendo, Casio, Ray Ban, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Oakley, Nike, Adidas, Tous, NBA and Pandora. The total manufacturer's suggested retail value (MSRP) of the seized goods is approximately $1.5 million.

This is the fifth seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods by HSI San Juan in the last 11 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 an 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 intended to bring 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.