HOUSTON – More than 260,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $20 million have been seized as part of a joint federal investigative operation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives announced Thursday that enforcement actions led by Homeland Security Investigations led to 56 arrests with 50 convictions.
The results stem from Operation Team Player, a year-round effort developed by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and merchandise.
Houston Police Department, Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Harris County Constable’s Office also participated in the operation.
“Criminal elements use major sporting events like the Super Bowl as an opportunity to sell substandard and counterfeit goods to the American public,” acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan said. “ICE special agents are committed to collaborating with industry and law-enforcement agencies to crackdown on counterfeiting that significantly impacts local economies and funnels money into organizations involved in additional illicit activities.”
Special agents from HSI teamed with industry, CBP and local law enforcement to identify flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the week leading up to Super Bowl LI.
They seized fake jerseys, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other bogus items prepared to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.
“The NFL is proud to continue its work with ICE, the IPR Center, and law enforcement departments throughout the country to protect fans and consumers who are seeking an authentic NFL experience during the celebration of Super Bowl LI,” Dolores DiBella, NFL vice president of Legal Affairs, said. “Their collaborative enforcement efforts advance consumer protection goals for every industry, year-round.”
This year’s Operation Team Player, which saw significant increases in arrests and convictions, began at the conclusion of last year’s Super Bowl. Throughout the year, the IPR Center led coordinated efforts with major sporting leagues to target contraband that impacts the economy, enables additional criminality and poses health and safety hazards to the public.
“Collaborative efforts like Operation Team Player put the health and safety of the American people and the vitality of our economy first,” acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said.