Homeland Security agents have seized nearly 450,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $39 million, authorities announced on Thursday.
“Operation Team Player” also resulted in 41 criminal arrests and 35 convictions, an effort that began at the end of last year’s Super Bowl, officials said.
Federal agents and industry experts teamed up, fanning out at retail outlets and street vendors in year ahead of Super Bowl 50. They seized fake jerseys, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other bogus items prepared to be sold to unsuspecting consumers, officials said.
“Criminals selling counterfeit goods often use big events like the Super Bowl to trick consumers into buying high-priced, low-quality fakes,” David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said at a Thursday news conference in San Francisco. “Not only do these criminal networks rip-off consumers, they have real consequences on the American economy.”
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña said the increased enforcement actions also led to information investigators can use to shutdown major counterfeit distribution networks overseas.
The operation was a joint effort by the Homeland Security’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Bay Area law-enforcement agencies.
NFL counsel, Dolores DiBella, added: “This collaboration protects all fans, including those participating in Super Bowl 50 festivities, who seek an authentic NFL experience.”