DENVER - More than 1,600 counterfeit items were seized Tuesday from seven kiosks in the 16th Street Mall area as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In addition, four vendors were administratively arrested for immigration law violations. Three of those arrested are citizens of Senegal; one is a citizen of Burkina Faso. The four will be placed in removal proceedings, which include the right to a hearing before a federal immigration judge, who will determine whether they are to be deported.
Counterfeit goods seized from the seven kiosks include 922 handbags, 469 pairs of sunglasses, 244 wallets and miscellaneous clothing accessories. Brands of the counterfeit items include: Coach, Louis Vuitton, Jimmie Choo, Prada, Burberry, and Kate Spade. ICE agents estimate the retail value of the items at more than $1 million.
"In recent years, the proliferation of counterfeit goods has increased at an alarming rate," said Jeffrey A. Copp, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Denver. "Enforcing America's counterfeiting laws are about protecting the rights of those who play by the rules, it's about keeping sub-par and unsafe merchandise off our streets, and it's about trying to keep billions of dollars of illicit funds out of the hands of organized criminal groups here and abroad."
The investigation, which began about a year ago, yielded intelligence regarding locations in the Denver area where counterfeit goods were allegedly being sold. Many of the items are believed to have been manufactured in China and imported to the United States. The investigation continues.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) violations involve the illegal use of trademarks, trade names and copyrights. It is estimated that the U.S. industry alone loses $200 to $250 billion and a total of 750,000 American jobs to counterfeiting annually.
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. In fiscal year 2008, ICE conducted 1,385 investigations leading to 446 arrests and more than $110 million in seized counterfeit merchandise.
To more effectively combat these violations, federal law enforcement agencies launched a new front in the fight against IPR crime with the opening of the National IPR Coordination Center in Crystal City, Va., in July 2008. This state-of-the-art center, led by ICE, brings together every government agency in the IPR enforcement arena to serve as a unified investigative front in the fight against IPR crime.
Anyone with information related to counterfeit merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement by calling 1-866-IPR-2060.