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Officials seize holiday counterfeit goods

Dec. 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they have arrested 33 people in connection with counterfeit holiday goods, worth about $77 million.

A current round of counterfeiting investigations focused on items sold in 66 cities in the United States and 55 cities in Mexico and led to the confiscation of about 327,000 counterfeit items in the United States alone, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Of the 33 arrested, 30 were arrested in the United States and three in South Korea. All were charged with counterfeit-goods trafficking.

Customs officials said counterfeiters have expanded this year into Christmas lights, plastic Angry Birds toys and National Football League jerseys for the holiday season.

"People tend to focus on luxury goods and DVDs, and that really understates the problem," said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "We live in an age where literally everything, from medicine to air bags to circuit boards, are being counterfeited.

"We're trying to create a safe and lawful environment around the holiday shopping season. [Counterfeiters] don't pay taxes and customs duties, they don't tend to pay healthcare, they don't tend to invest in the next great product."

Morton said counterfeit products pose safety risks for those who buy them.

"Counterfeit batteries are going to explode, a counterfeit electrical cord might catch fire and burn the house down," Morton said. "Toys are always a concern. You never know what's going into the actual manufacturing in terms of the chemicals. Obviously you don't know whether they have been tested in terms of, are they safe for toddlers."

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