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Feds Seize $8M in Counterfeits Targeting Halloween and Holidays

More than 33,000 counterfeit items valued at north of $8 million were seized in combined operations that overlapped the Halloween and holiday shopping seasons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans office announced.

In one phase of a month-long Intellectual Property Rights, HSI-led surge dubbed Operation Safety Claus this month focused on the holiday gift-buying season, an array of merchandise was seized. The alleged fake goods included designer clothing, shoes, sunglasses, handbags, wallets, cosmetics, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, cell phones and cell phone accessories, DVDs, music CDs and sports memorabilia. The operations covered Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

This followed a connected operation that began the week prior to Halloween in which HSI New Orleans special agents conducted surveillance of area business locations that led to identifying numerous vendors engaged in the illegal sale of counterfeit goods, with an emphasis on Halloween-related items such as cosmetic contact lenses and makeup that pose a potential public safety threat due to possible bacterial and heavy metals contamination.

This operation vastly exceeded the HSI New Orleans 2018 totals, which resulted in 6,800 seized items valued at $800,000.

At a news conference announcing the operation’s results, HSI New Orleans special agent in charge Jere T. Miles said, “While consumers may think they’re saving a few dollars, the reality is transnational criminal organizations use counterfeiting as a revenue stream to fund other large-scale criminal activities.”

Steven Stavinoha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-New Orleans director of field operations, said, “The Port of New Orleans has been a longtime partner with HSI in the effort to protect intellectual property rights. Operation Safety Claus is a powerful initiative for consumer safety and I commend all of our DHS partners for their outstanding work.”

In fiscal year 2019, HSI as a whole seized more than $800 million in counterfeit goods, and made more than 350 criminal arrests related to support of IPR enforcement operations.