U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigators seized more than $21.6 million worth of fake National Football League merchandise, arrested more than 50 people and shut down more than 5,000 Websites in coordination with the NFL, officials announced last week in the run up to the Super Bowl.
The law enforcement effort, dubbed Operation Team Player, began in June and targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise made overseas. Fake jerseys, hats, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs were among the articles confiscated by special agents and officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Postal Inspection Service and state and local police departments around the country.
Officials identified illegal shipments entering through various ports, as well as at stores and street vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items.
Seized NFL merchandise
Agents, with the help of CBP import specialists, seized $1.5 million in fake NFL merchandise last week at DHL's air cargo hub near Cincinnati.
Counterfeit products jeopardize American jobs and economic activity because criminals are trading on the reputations of brands created through hard work and steal sales from legitimate companies, officials said.
Mexico's Tax Administration Service, for the first time, also conducted operations targeting warehouses, stores and flea markets in Mexican cities to search for fake sports merchandise in conjunction with the U.S.-NFL sting, DHS said.
Operation Team Player was spearheaded by the Intellectual Property Rights Center, which serves to coordinate information sharing, planning, investigations and other actions related to intellectual property theft for 21 federal agencies.