Major sporting events attract lots of fans and serve as a breeding ground for the counterfeit merchandise trade.
During a six-day enforcement action leading up to the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game in Chicago earlier this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents seized nearly 127,000 counterfeit items, retailing at more than $2.5 million.
The seizures were part of an ongoing effort with the NBA and HSI to target those in the Chicago area who are committing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) theft. The Chicago Police Department and nearby Alsip and Wheeling Police Departments provided valuable assistance, ICE said.
“HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to keeping counterfeiters from deceiving unsuspecting fans at major sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star Game,” James M. Gibbons, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago, said. “We appreciate this collaboration with the NBA to bring awareness to a crime that costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars each year and exploits consumers who unknowingly spend their hard-earned money on second-rate memorabilia.”
In the operation that took place from Feb. 11-16, HSI and local law enforcement partners identified businesses and street vendors selling counterfeit goods. They seized fake trademarked sports merchandise such as hats and shirts, as well as counterfeit NBA All-Star Game tickets.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI seized more than $800 million in counterfeit goods and made more than 350 criminal arrests related to support of IPR enforcement operations.
The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft.