Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ICE seizes more than $350,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise, cosmetics at area swap meets

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized more than $350,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise - including clothing, leather goods, jewelry, sunglasses, accessories and cosmetics - in a coordinated crackdown targeting vendors in the Las Vegas area last week.

All told, the enforcement actions resulted in the seizure of more than 4,300 individual items bearing the names of more than 25 designer brands, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, Rolex, Ray-Ban, Versace, and MAC. Collectively, authorities estimate the seized merchandise is worth more than $350,000, based upon the items' suggested retail price had the goods been legitimate.

The counterfeit goods were seized last week from Forward Fashion Handbags,
1750 South Rainbow Blvd.
; Lupita Perfumeria, located at the Charleston Discount Mall,
4530 E. Charleston Ave.
; the Broad Acres Swap Meet in North Las Vegas; the Fantastik Swap Meet in Las Vegas; and one private residence in Las Vegas.

HSI received substantial assistance with the enforcement actions from the Nevada Department of Investigations.

"The next time you're tempted to save a few bucks by buying a product you know is counterfeit, remember - you're a party to economic sabotage," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "Counterfeiting undermines the U.S. economy, robs Americans of jobs, stifles American innovation, and promotes other types of crime. The only ones who benefit from schemes like this are the counterfeiters themselves, and they are getting rich at America's expense."

ICE has established a toll-free number for the public to report illegal activity, including information about suspected trafficking in counterfeit merchandise. The number, 1-866-DHS-2ICE, is monitored 24 hours a day.

Last week's enforcement actions are part of Operation Fire Sale, an ongoing agency initiative targeting intellectual property crime in several major cities nationwide, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Philadelphia. Spearheaded by the HSI-led National Intellectual property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), Operation Fire Sale resulted in the seizure of more than $16 million worth of counterfeit merchandise in those cities in a September enforcement operation.

HSI plays a leading role in investigating the production, smuggling and distribution of counterfeit products and combating intellectual property rights (IPR) violations. While many HSI enforcement actions involve counterfeit designer clothing and accessories, some of the top commodities seized in HSI IPR investigations are products that pose disturbing risks to public safety and security, including counterfeit pharmaceuticals and critical technology components, such as computer chips for defense systems and airplane equipment.

HSI's intellectual property theft enforcement efforts have continued to escalate in the past 18 months under this Administration. In fiscal year 2008, ICE initiated 643 intellectual property theft investigations during the entire year. In the first two quarters of this fiscal year, HSI initiated 560 intellectual property theft investigations. At that pace, HSI expects to increase its intellectual property theft enforcement by 40 percent compared to just two years ago.

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