WASHINGTON — Federal authorities said Thursday they have seized a record-breaking $13.6 million of counterfeit National Football League merchandise, arrested 23 people and seized 313 Web sites during a four-month nationwide investigation.
Authorities and NFL officials announced the operation and seizure totals at a press conference in New Orleans as a tie-in to the Super Bowl, which will be played there on Sunday.
The initiative, dubbed “Operation Red Zone,” began on Sept. 1 and targeted a wide range of venues across the country for counterfeit NFL and Super Bowl merchandise, including international shipments, warehouses, stores, online vendors, street vendors and flea markets.
“The Super Bowl is one of the nation’s most exciting events,” said John Morton, director of Immigration & Customs Enforcement. “Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand. The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans and fuels crime overseas. No good comes of counterfeiting American products — whether NFL jerseys, air bags or pharmaceuticals — and we must go after the criminals behind it.”
Among the bogus goods seized were jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts and jackets. Officials from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and local and state police departments around the country participated in the nationwide sweep, in conjunction with the NFL and other major sports leagues.
The HSI-led Intellectual Property Rights Center spearheaded the effort, in coordination with the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section and five U.S. Attorneys’ offices, including the Districts of Maryland, New Jersey, Colorado, Utah and the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Officials, who seized more than 160,000 items of fake Super Bowl related memorabilia along with other counterfeit merchandise, said they will continue the investigation through Wednesday due to increased counterfeiting activity around the world.
“We’re delighted to once again partner with federal law enforcement to help combat the influx of counterfeit merchandise,” said Anastasia Danias, NFL vice president for legal affairs. “We are grateful for their tireless efforts to keep counterfeiters from illegally profiting off of the fans’ enthusiasm for their team and the Super Bowl, and from hurting the local businesses that play by the rules.”
One of the largest busts occurred in September when ICE officials executed a search warrant at a home in Warwick, R.I., and seized 226 boxes of counterfeit goods containing 4,016 sports jerseys with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $724,340, in addition to $477,000 worth of additional fake goods and $130,000 in U.S. currency and checks. The owner of the home was arrested and is facing federal charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods and smuggling.
In a separate bust, ICE agents in Indianapolis seized 1,319 counterfeit sports caps worth $30,000 and $7,600 worth of additional counterfeit goods at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and arrested a vendor there. Another 21 people were arrested across the country.
Authorities said the seizure of Web sites is a part of a long-term enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet, dubbed “Operation in Our Sites.” Visitors to the Web sites will find a seizure banner and a notice warning that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
Since the launch of the operation, the IPR Center has seized 2,061 domain names and, in conjunction with PayPal, identified and seized more than $66,000 in assets in bank accounts used for money transfers to the illegal operations.
“PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and as part of providing safe and trusted payments and commerce platforms,” said Tod Cohen, eBay’s vice president and deputy general counsel of government relations.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia