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CBP Foils $53M Fake Designer Smuggling Attempt

Federal officials last month seized tens of thousands of fashion knockoffs floating in from China.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers assigned to the Los Angeles-Long Beach Seaport, in coordination with import specialists from the Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising, and Apparel, Footwear and Textiles Centers of Excellence and Expertise seized 39,243 counterfeit designer products arriving in two containerized cargo shipments from China.

CBP partnered with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations special agents to seize the first shipment on July 19, and a second one on July 30, in independent smuggling attempts, CBP said Thursday.

CBP officers discovered sandals, handbags, sneakers, hats, wallets, backpacks, mobile phone cases and belts bearing numerous registered and recorded trademarks, including Gucci, Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Yeezy, Versace, Fendi, Balenciaga, Burberry, Chrome Hearts, Nike, Air Jordan and Ferragamo.

If genuine, the seized merchandise would have had a combined estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $53.75 million, according to CBP.

CBP officers at the Los Angeles-Long Beach Seaport seized 39,243 counterfeit designer products arriving in cargo shipments from China.
Some of the counterfeit goods. Courtesy

“The size of these fraudulent shipments clearly demonstrates the greed and risks transnational criminal organizations are willing to take in order to increase their illicit profits,” Carlos C. Martel, director of field operations in Los Angeles, said. “CBP officers remain vigilant, committed and focused on disrupting these smuggling operations.”

While these products historically have been sold on illegitimate websites and in underground outlets, the rise of e-commerce has offered a haven for criminals who are able to hide behind seemingly legitimate listings, the agency noted. The sale of counterfeit commodities multiplies the illegal profits of smugglers and traffickers who reinvest the proceeds from such sales into further criminal enterprises.

“Illicit goods trafficked to American consumers by e-commerce platforms and online third-party marketplaces threaten public health and safety, as well as national security,” Donald R. Kusser, Los Angeles-Long Beach Seaport port director, said. “Counterfeit goods unfairly compete with legitimate products and reduce the incentives to innovate, both in the United States and abroad.”

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CBP officers at the Los Angeles-Long Beach Seaport seized 39,243 counterfeit designer products arriving in cargo shipments from China.
A CBP officer displaying a fake Gucci handbag. Courtesy

Authorities aid consumers can take key steps to protect themselves and their families from counterfeit goods These include purchasing goods directly from the trademark holder or from authorized retailers. When shopping online, consumers should read seller reviews and check for a working U.S. phone number and address that can be used to contact the seller.

CBP said counterfeit apparel, footwear and handbags are often of inferior quality and may feature poor or uneven stitching, fragile fabrics and improperly sized or designed logos. Peeling labels, low-quality ink or printing errors on the packaging are also signs that products may not be legitimate.

In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP personnel nationwide seized 26,503 shipments containing counterfeit goods estimated to be worth nearly $1.3 billion had they been genuine.