Criminal Justice News

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Massive cache of counterfeit athletic apparel found in Sacramento warehouse


Value of seized clothing estimated at more than $4 million

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) continued working Wednesday to inventory the contents of a warehouse on the city's southeast side that yielded one of the largest single seizures of counterfeit apparel ever made in this area.

HSI agents executed a search warrant at the building on Berry Avenue Tuesday morning as part of a long-term investigation. Inside, investigators found multiple rows of shelving 40 feet high and more than 400 feet long stacked with apparel. Some of the merchandise was packed in boxes, other items were individually wrapped in plastic.

Agents still do not have a final count on the total number of items, but they say it will run into the tens of thousands. The bulk of the clothing was athletic apparel bearing a counterfeit Adidas trademark, including sports jerseys, shorts and shoes. In addition to the apparel, agents also discovered an array of counterfeit sports memorabilia, such as commemorative clocks and soccer balls.

"Commercial piracy and product counterfeiting undermine the U.S. economy, rob Americans of jobs, stifle American innovation and promote other types of crime," said Dan Lane, assistant special agent in charge for HSI Sacramento. "Intellectual property theft amounts to economic sabotage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively pursue product counterfeiters and those who sell counterfeit products."

An investigative consultant who works with Adidas on issues involving intellectual property violations estimates if the seized merchandise had been genuine it would have retailed for more than $4 million.

HSI officials advise the probe is ongoing and no arrests have yet been made. HSI is receiving substantial assistance with the investigation from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including CBP personnel with specialized expertise in identifying counterfeit merchandise who were on site for the execution of Tuesday's search warrant. The Sacramento Police Department also provided support for the enforcement action.

It is believed the seized merchandise was destined for distribution to retail outlets throughout the United States. Once the items are inventoried, they will be transported to a secure facility for storage while the case is ongoing.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.

HSI manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR 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 20 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, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the HSI-led IPR Center, visit IPRCenter.gov.

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