SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), seized approximately $5 million in counterfeit merchandise during a four-day operation dubbed Forged Dreams, Valentine's Blitz.
The operation took place Sunday through Wednesday with the assistance of CBP, Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), San Juan Police Department, Puerto Rico Department of Treasury, Puerto Rico Health Department and government agencies.
"The trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America's 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," said 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."
"The creation, smuggling and sale of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Products that are produced illegally do harm to trademark holders, may be smuggled into the country and distributed by organized crime groups and sold to the detriment of local businesses and communities who derive no financial gain from the illegal sales. HSI is committed to an aggressive approach towards enforcing the nation's intellectual property rights laws."
During the four-day operation, HSI special agents and partner law enforcement officials impacted 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 include counterfeit designer clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, handbags, sunglasses and sportswear from 39 brands with a total manufacturer's suggested retail price of $4,788,032.
This is the third multi-million seizure of counterfeit goods by HSI in the past three months. During a two-day operation in December 2012, HSI special agents and their partners impacted 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 manufacturer's suggested retail value of the seized goods was approximately $2 million. In September 2012, during the execution of several search warrants in eight municipalities, HSI special agents seized more than $18 million in counterfeit contact lenses and other merchandise.
During FY 2012, CBP officers conducted more than 136 seizures related Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) 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 HSI-led 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 their website at www.IPRCenter.gov.