CBP Assists HSI in $1.5 Million Counterfeit Goods Seizure from Puerto Rican Flea Market
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—U.S.Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists supported special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in seizing approximately $1.5 million in counterfeit and pirated merchandise as part of Operation Forged Dreams. The operation took place Sunday with assistance from CBP, the Puerto Rico Department of Health's Office of Investigations, the Puerto Rico Police Department and the Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs.
"The trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America's innovation economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of U.S. workers, and, in some cases, national security and the health and safety of consumers," indicated Marcelino Borges, director of CBP field operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. "The trade in these illegitimate goods is associated with smuggling and other criminal activities, and often funds criminal enterprises."
"Stealing intellectual property is not a victimless crime," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI 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. Those involved in intellectual property rights violations should take note that we are actively looking for contraband on a daily basis and counterfeit goods will be seized and violators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
During the operation, HSI special agents and partner law enforcement officers targeted 23 retailers of counterfeit and pirated goods at the Arecibo flea market. They seized 10,000 CDs, 50,000 DVDs, 565 watches, 368 video games, 220 pieces of jewelry, 1,161 sunglasses and 204 handbags, among other items, infringing on the trademark of Gucci, Michael Kors, Microsoft, Nintendo, Casio, Ray Ban, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Oakley, Nike, Adidas, Tous, NBA and Pandora. The total manufacturer's suggested retail value (MSRP) of the seized goods is approximately $1.5 million.
This is the fifth seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods by HSI San Juan in the last 11 months. During a four-day operation in February, HSI special agents and their partners targeted 15 retailers of counterfeit goods at prominent locations in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Carolina, Toa Baja, Caguas, Bayamon, Guaynabo and San Juan. The seized items included counterfeit designer clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, handbags, sunglasses and sportswear with an MSRP of $4,788,032. During a two-day operation in December 2012, HSI special agents and their partners targeted 17 retailers of counterfeit goods in the municipalities of Bayamon, Caguas, Canovanas, Ponce and San Juan. They seized 4,749 counterfeit items infringing on the trademark of more than 38 brands. The total MSRP of the seized goods was approximately $2 million. In September 2012, HSI special agents seized more than $18 million in counterfeit contact lenses and other merchandise during the execution of several search warrants in eight municipalities.
Operation Forged Dreams is an HSI San Juan initiative intended to bring a multi-agency and industry united front against individuals and organizations exploiting trade and financial systems by importing, exporting, selling, storing, manufacturing or otherwise handling counterfeit and pirated goods that may present a hazard to public health and safety.
During fiscal year 2012, CBP officers conducted more than 136 seizures related Intellectual Property Rights violations, with a domestic value of approximately $2 million.
CBP and HSI continued to step up enforcement against these dangerous products, and the resulting seizures help keep consumers safe. CBP and HSI protect businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.
This investigation was supported by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.
For more information on the IPR Center please visit IPRCenter.gov.