WASHINGTON - In order to protect consumers from deals that are too good to be true, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served court orders seizing 18 domain names of websites selling counterfeit goods over the Internet. This operation dubbed, "Operation Broken Hearted," is the fourth phase of, "Operation in Our Sites," a sustained initiative aimed at counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.
The 18 domain names seized were commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods. During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. Purchased counterfeit items included bracelets, earrings, handbags, necklaces, rings, sunglasses, wallets and watches.
The seized counterfeit items represent 14 name brands: Breitling, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Omega, Patek Philipe, Prada, Rolex , Tiffany & Co. and Timberland.
In most instances, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. Once the goods were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from U.S. magistrate judges. Individuals attempting to access the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.
This nationwide operation was spearheaded by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), in coordination with U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the Southern District of New York and Southern District of Texas, along with HSI offices in Houston and New York.
"Even on Valentine's day, American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates," said ICE Director John Morton. "These counterfeits represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy, and sometimes dangerous, goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities and by denying Americans good-paying jobs. HSI and our partners at the IPR Center will continue to work together to keep counterfeit products off our streets."
The websites seized in "Operation Broken Hearted" are:
Today's operation is the fourth phase of "Operation in Our Sites," an ongoing investigation - led by the IPR Center - into websites that illegally offer copyrighted and counterfeit trademarked goods. Earlier this month, 10 websites that illegally streamed live sporting telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet were seized. In November 2010, 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works were seized. In June 2010, investigators executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies, music and software.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center is led by ICE HSI and includes partners from U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the FBI; the Department of State; the Food and Drug Administration; the Postal Inspection Service; the Department of Commerce; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Logistics Agency; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Army Criminal Investigative Command; the General Services Administration; the Consumer Product Safety Commission; INTERPOL; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and the Government of Mexico Tax Administrative Service.
The IPR Center allows law enforcement and the private sector jointly to address the growing transnational problem of counterfeit products. The IPR Center coordinates outreach to U.S. rights holders and conducts domestic and international law enforcement as well as coordinates and directs anti-counterfeiting investigations.