WASHINGTON — Federal authorities said Thursday they had seized an estimated $6.5 million worth of counterfeit merchandise in Puerto Rico, including bogus products with labels such as Gucci, Michael Kors and Prada.
Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations seized the counterfeit merchandise in Old San Juan on Wednesday, with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“Stealing intellectual property is not a victimless crime,” said Ricardo Mayoral, special agent in charge of HSI in San Juan. “The bottom line is, counterfeit and pirated goods steal revenue from legitimate businesses and shortchange buyers who think they’re getting the real deal.”
He warned counterfeiters that authorities are “actively looking for contraband on a daily basis,” adding that violators will be prosecuted.
HSI special agents who partnered with law enforcement officers targeted 14 retailers of counterfeit goods, selling fake products with additional labels such as Ray-Ban, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Oakley, Nike and the National Basketball Association. The total of $6.5 million is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
Officials also executed five search warrants and notified first-time offenders of a violation of intellectual property rights law. Authorities said they will present cases for prosecution for repeat offenders.
Global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has hit an estimated $461 billion a year, and American, Italian and French brands have been the hardest hit, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.
Among the most frequently seized counterfeit goods was footwear, apparel, electrical machinery, watches and medical instruments, the report found.
China remains the number-one spot where counterfeit products originate from, accounting for 63.2 percent of total global seizures in 2013, the study said.
In the U.S., federal authorities seized $1.35 billion in counterfeit and manufactured goods imported into the U.S., based on an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the goods, in fiscal year 2015, according to the latest data.
China remained the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized, accounting for a total estimated MSRP value of $697 million, or 52 percent of the estimated MSRP value of all IPR seizures. Bogus apparel and accessories, along with watches and jewelry, were the top two product categories seized.