WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday it had served court orders seizing 16 domain names of Web sites selling primarily counterfeit apparel and accessories over the Internet.

This story first appeared in the July 29, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As part of their investigation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. Among the items purchased were shoes, boots, sneakers, jackets, shirts, hats and sunglasses. Thirteen brands were involved: Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lacoste, New Era, Nike, The North Face, Oakley, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Sons of Anarchy, Tory Burch and UGG.

“American business is under assault from counterfeiters,” said ICE director John Morton. “These counterfeits represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy and sometimes dangerous goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities, and by denying Americans good-paying jobs.”

As part of the operation, led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division, Ryan Breen, 31, of Savannah, N.Y., was arrested and charged with using the Internet to traffic in counterfeit goods. Federal authorities said Breen was the owner and operator of a Web site seized in the operation. He is charged with selling unauthorized apparel from the FX Network series “Sons of Anarchy.” The site sold counterfeit T-shirts using the show’s trademark brand without the permission of Fox Broadcasting Co., officials said. If convicted, Breen faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

“Legitimate creators, performers and craftspeople who grow and support the economy through their hard work and talents must have their intellectual property protected,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., of the Western District of New York. “In today’s age, the theft of another’s property, to include one’s ideas, is just as likely to occur over the Internet as it is on the streets of the community. By using court-ordered warrants to seize a particular Web site or domain, our office is using 21st century techniques to combat criminals operating in the virtual world.”

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