Federal agents have seized more than $330,000 in counterfeit sports merchandise and apparel in the Bay Area as part its pre-Super Bowl crackdown, authorities announced Thursday.
Called Operation Red Zone, the nationwide crackdown has been executed by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The local portion of the operation has seized more than 9,500 counterfeit items, including several thousand pieces of phony National Football League apparel in the Bay Area.
The knockoff NFL merchandise included sports jerseys, t-shirts, beanie hats and ball caps. The estimated value of the seized merchandise is based upon the suggested retail price had the items been genuine.
Locally, the counterfeit crackdown focused on three fronts – online sales; street vendors suspected of selling counterfeit goods; and mail processing facilities where agents found 66 packages containing more than 3,400 counterfeit items.
Authorities said many of the intercepted items were likely destined for unscrupulous vendors for intended resale. Nationwide, Operation Red Zone has so far resulted in the seizure of $13.6 million in fake NFL merchandise and the seizure of 313 websites linked to the sale of counterfeit goods.
“The Super Bowl is one of the nation’s most exciting events,” said ICE Director John Morton in a prepared statement. “Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise.”
The 313 websites seized as part of Operation Red Zone 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.
"We attacked the counterfeiters at every point along the criminal supply chain," Morton said during a press briefing in New Orleans.
Morton said agents also were in the city this week to crack down on the sale of counterfeit merchandise before Sunday's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
"This just takes good old-fashioned police work, people getting out on the streets," he said. This is the fifth consecutive year that federal authorities have launched a similar operation to crack down on the sale of counterfeit sports goods. Roughly $5.1 million in goods were seized during the previous one, Morton said.
"This is the largest number we've ever seized," Morton said of the $13.6 million.
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