By  on January 3, 2012

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities said Tuesday they have seized $350,000 worth of fake sports merchandise from international mail facilities and local street vendors in Philadelphia, where the National Hockey League held its annual Winter Classic on Monday.

The counterfeit bust, which snagged a total of 1,649 bogus products, took place in the run-up to the outdoor game at Citizens Bank Park, where the New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, working in conjunction with Customs and Border Protection officials, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Major Crimes unit and the NHL, launched an investigation on Dec. 28 and seized 150 international mail parcels and investigated nine local vendors during the course of the operation.

The vast majority of merchandise seized was illegally labeled Winter Classic jerseys, said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia.

In addition to bogus NHL merchandise, ICE officials seized counterfeit merchandise bearing trademarks from the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

“Vendors who sell counterfeit goods to unsuspecting sports fans will be held accountable,” said Kelleghan. “These vendors sell inferior items, tarnishing the reputation of trademark holders like the NHL. Counterfeit goods also cost U.S. industries billions of dollars in losses each year.”

Kelleghan said ICE and Customs officials inspected international parcels as they entered the U.S., primarily by aircraft, in Philadelphia. He added that the majority of parcels were shipped to Philadelphia from China. Officials are continuing their investigation into who shipped the bogus goods from China and who was set to receive them in Philadelphia.

“This investigation was based on lessons we have learned in the past,” Kelleghan said. “We are finding that [counterfeiters] are using international mail to expedite products coming into the U.S., mostly from China.”

Officials also targeted vendors selling merchandise outside the venue and seized counterfeits from nine of them. No arrests have been made yet, Kelleghan said.

Officials also warned consumers about purchasing sports merchandise from random Web sites unless they are the domain of legitimate sports teams or leagues. Merchandise should have a hologram sticker or hangtag and a sewn-in or screen-printed neck label identifying an authorized licensee.

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