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Feds Bust Counterfeit Operations

Separate investigations lead to seizures in Texas and Puerto Rico.

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities announced a pair of counterfeit busts this week, including one deemed the largest in port history in Laredo, Tex., that snagged thousands of bogus watches.

The second counterfeit seizure involved hundreds of units of designer apparel and accessories from 17 retailers in Puerto Rico.

In the first operation, U.S. Customs & Border Protections’ Import Specialist Enforcement Team seized a commercial shipment containing 7,800 counterfeit Audemars Piguet trademark watches in Laredo. Customs official said the seizure, which had a retail value of $83 million, was the second significant one involving the Piguet trademark this year.

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A Customs official at the World Trade Bridge selected a shipment of watches arriving via express consignment truck and discovered the watches in October. The watches were sent to CBP headquarters for additional review and later confirmed by the trademark holder, Audemars Piguet.

“This seizure of $83 million in counterfeit watches is now the largest in port history and is the second multimillion-dollar seizure involving the same Audemars Piguet design trademark in less than six months,” said Sidney Aki, CBP port director at the Laredo Port of Entry. “As we approach the Christmas holidays, seizures like these help reassure both the trade community and the public that CBP remains committed to ensuring that recorded trademarks are protected and the American consumer is protected from counterfeit merchandise.”

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations announced the second bust of more than $2 million in counterfeit designer merchandise from retailers in Puerto Rico. Working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, ICE officials made the seizures at the stores in prominent locations in Puerto Rico on Monday and Tuesday in an operation dubbed “Forged Dreams.” The stores were located in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Bayamón, Caguas, Canóvanas, Ponce and San Juan.

Officials seized 4,749 counterfeit items infringing on the trademarks of 38 brands, including Adidas, Armani, Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Cartier, Hermès, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

“The illegal importation and sale of counterfeit goods is a significant problem that affects our economy, impacts American jobs and innovation, puts the public’s health and safety at risk and at times threatens our national security,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Juan. “Consumers should know that if they buy pirated, counterfeit and/or unlicensed products, they are hurting legitimate businesses and they may also be facilitating criminal activity.”