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June 8, 2016San Francisco, CA, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE targets sale of NBA counterfeit goods in Bay Area – scores big

Hundreds of phony sports merchandise items seized in crackdown

SAN FRANCISCO – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have conducted a month-long enforcement surge coinciding with the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals that led to the seizure of more than $28,000 worth of counterfeit NBA-branded merchandise and related goods. The estimated value is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price had the merchandise been genuine. Among the items seized were t-shirts, caps, team flags, and decals.

The amount seized during the NBA Finals in the Bay Area this year was significantly lower than last year’s $375,000 mark due to the heavy presence of HSI special agents and word of mouth among counterfeit hawkers.

“Counterfeiters may seem harmless on the surface, but they are often feeding cash into an elaborate system of organized crime that includes illegal narcotics operations, human trafficking, and even terrorism,” said David Prince, assistance special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco.

Large sporting events such as the NBA finals are prime targets for counterfeiters, many of whom travel the country with the sole intention of scamming unwitting sports fans. HSI regularly teams up with other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement during significant sporting events like the playoffs – and most recently at Super Bowl 50 in the Bay Area. Last year, together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, HSI seized more than $1.3 billion worth of counterfeit goods based upon the manufacturer’s suggested retail price had the products been legitimate.

While sports merchandise is a popular choice, intellectual property thieves will counterfeit any product that can be sold or marketed.  Among the most troubling trends is the burgeoning availability of counterfeit drugs, medical equipment, aircraft and automobile parts, computer hardware, military components, and electrical safety devices.

According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, businesses worldwide lose an estimated $600 to $700 billion annually due to counterfeiting.

This enforcement action was a result of Operation Team Player, an ongoing effort developed by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and merchandise. Trademark protections help ensure a stronger economy and strengthen the vitality of American businesses. Copyright infringement is not a victimless crime and denying these criminals a payday weakens their ability to operate the transnational criminal organizations they represent.

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