Feds target counterfeit merchandise

Dec. 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM
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MIAMI, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. authorities say they confiscated hundreds of thousands of counterfeit items in a six-week operation in 66 U.S. cities, South Korea and Mexico.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said "Operation Holiday Hoax II" targeted retail stores, flea markets, merchandise-swapping meetings, seaports and land-based points of entry in the United States as well as in 55 cities in Mexico and in Seoul.

The operation netted 327,000 products that would have had an estimated retail of $76.8 million had they been genuine, ICE said in a news release.

Thirty-three people were arrested and charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods, and the investigation is continuing, ICE said.

The items included toys, cellphones, handbags, DVDs, perfume, wallets, computer software and clothing.

"Counterfeiting remains a significant problem that demands strong enforcement efforts both here and abroad," ICE Director John Morton said in the news release.

In South Florida, investigators said they hope a raid that netted thousands of phony items at the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop would lead to illegal manufacturers, The Miami Herald reported.

"Everyone is looking for a bargain this holiday season, but if you see something that is too good to be true, then it really is," said Carmen Pino, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in South Florida.

Officials say the phony merchandise not only contributes to organized crime but costs jobs.

Speaking of the crackdown, Alfredo Gutierrez, director of the Tax Administration Service of Mexico, said in the release, "These actions prevent illegal merchandise from reaching the retail market in Mexico, hence protecting legally established businesses from the underground economy and illegal commerce."

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