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WASHINGTON â€“ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the seizure of more than 327,000 counterfeit items with a manufacturer's suggested retail price worth an estimated $76.8 million as part of an ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) operation. The center continues to track down those who are selling counterfeit and pirated products this holiday season.
During the six-week operation, coined Operation Holiday Hoax II, the IPR Center and its partners, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Government of Mexico, along with state and local law enforcement worked with trademark holders to target stores, flea markets and swap meets involved in the importation, distribution and selling of counterfeit and pirated products in 66 cities across the United States; in Seoul, South Korea; and in 55 Mexican cities. Additionally, CBP officers conducted inspections and seized counterfeit merchandise at various U.S. ports of entry, which led to subsequent investigations and enforcement actions by ICE HSI special agents. In each U.S. operation, the trademark holders verified the seized products were counterfeit or pirated.
“Counterfeiting remains a significant problem that demands strong enforcement efforts both here and abroad,” said ICE Director John Morton. “This year’s success during Operation Holiday Hoax was as a result of the close partnership with the governments of Mexico and South Korea, and I’d like to thank them for their continued assistance in this fight. Together, we’ve dealt a significant blow to counterfeiters worldwide while making a positive impact on American jobs here at home.”
“These actions prevent illegal merchandise from reaching the retail market in Mexico, hence protecting legally established businesses from the underground economy and illegal commerce,” said Tax Administration Service of Mexico (SAT) Director Alfredo Gutierrez. “SAT will continue to support joint strategies to leverage our detection capabilities of international criminal networks.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilitates about $2 trillion in legitimate trade annually while enforcing U.S. trade laws that protect the economy, and the health and the safety of the American people,” said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin. “This important work is accomplished through close partnerships with the trade community, other government agencies and foreign governments.”
Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16, ICE HSI special agents and law enforcement officers seized counterfeit products in the United States, including toys, cell phones and chargers, handbags, DVDs, perfume, integrated circuits, wallets, computer software, and sports jerseys. Thirty-three people were arrested and charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods.
As part of this operation, SAT – assisted by the local and federal police forces and the Office of the Attorney General – carried out its operations between Nov. 1 and Dec. 9, conducting 845 inspections at main ports of entry, executing 160 search warrants in Mexico, and seizing 23.8 million pieces of counterfeit items, including cigarettes, tools, DVDs, toys, electronics, cell phone accessories and 10 tons of clothing that were illegally introduced into Mexico. The estimated value of these seized items is $7.1 million in U.S. currency, which is the equivalent to 96.7 million pesos. No arrests were made in connection with Mexico’s portion of the operation.
This is the second iteration of Operation Holiday Hoax. The first netted more than $26 million worth of counterfeit goods when it was conducted in December 2009.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.