CHARLESTON, SC- Counterfeit products including Nike, Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren with an estimated retail value of $542,310 was seized here Monday following a seven-month investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The results of the investigation, which was headed by ICE's Charleston Resident Agent-in-Charge Office, is a testament to the great law enforcement cooperation in South Carolina. Agents and officers from the South Carolina Secretary of State, Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office and Blazer Investigations assisted ICE with this impressive seizure.
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. ICE is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to protect legitimate businesses involved in the manufacturing, importation and distribution of licensed commodities from unscrupulous counterfeiters.
"Enforcing America's counterfeiting laws are about protecting the rights of those who play by the rules; it's about keeping America a global leader in intellectual property rights; 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," said Patrick McDavid, ICE resident agent-in-charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Charleston.
"The sale of counterfeit merchandise is not a victimless crime. It hurts manufacturers, retailers, and the economy," said Secretary of State Mark Hammond. "Counterfeiters do not pay taxes, meaning less money, in this instance, for Orangeburg County schools, hospitals, parks and other social programs."
ICE, along with its DHS partner U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), made nearly 14,000 seizures last fiscal year. ICE investigations in fiscal year 2007, resulted in 241 arrests, 149 indictments and 134 convictions on IPR violations. During fiscal year 2007, ICE and CBP seized counterfeit or pirated merchandize worth approximately $200 million in domestic value, exceeding the value of the previous year's seizures by 27 percent.
Anyone with information related to counterfeit merchandise is encouraged to contact law enforcement. Those with information may contact ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline by dialing 1 (866) DHS-2ICE.
The ICE investigation into this case continues.