DENVER - A nationwide federal operation to target counterfeit NFL merchandise has resulted in the seizure of more than $13.6 million in fake merchandise and 313 websites.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said "Operation Red Zone" targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise as it entered the United States.
Authorities targeted warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the country.
Fake jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated by teams of special agents and officers from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and state and local police departments around the country -- all in partnership with the NFL and other major sports leagues.
"The Super Bowl is one of the nation's most exciting events. Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand," said ICE Director Morton. "The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans, and fuels crime overseas. No good comes of counterfeiting American products -- whether NFL jerseys, airbags, or pharmaceuticals -- and we must go after the criminals behind it."
Special agents from HSI and officers with CBP operated in multiple teams with the NFL and law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to identify illegal shipments imported into the U.S., as well as stores and vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items. With three days left before Super Bowl XLVII, the teams have already seized more than 160,000 pieces of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit items.
"We're delighted to once again partner with federal law enforcement to help combat the influx of counterfeit merchandise," said NFL Vice President for Legal Affairs Anastasia Danias. "We are grateful for their tireless efforts to keep counterfeiters from illegally profiting off of the fans' enthusiasm for their team and the Super Bowl and from hurting the local businesses that play by the rules."
-- Website Seizures --
Special agents seized a total of 313 websites identified to be selling counterfeit merchandise. The 313 websites are now in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
Homeland Security Investigations has continued to work closely with payment processor Paypal to identify bank accounts being used to facilitate the transfer of money to these illegal operations. To date, Paypal and HSI have identified and seized over $66,000 in assets in these accounts.
"Paypal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and as part of providing safe and trusted payments and commerce platforms," said Tod Cohen, eBay's vice president and deputy general counsel of government relations.