US authorities announced they have seized 313 domain names, arrested 23 individuals and seized more than $13.6 million in fake NFL merchandise during ‘Operation Red Zone’ which commenced on 1 September 2012.
Authorities targeted warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the United States.
Fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated by teams of special agents and officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Postal Inspection Service and state and local police departments around the country – all in partnership with the NFL and other major sports leagues.
“The Super Bowl is one of the nation’s most exciting events. Organised criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. “The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans and fuels crime overseas. No good comes of counterfeiting American products – whether NFL jerseys, airbags, or pharmaceuticals – and we must go after the criminals behind it.”
Furthering HSI’s efforts to combat the international counterfeiting supply chain and piracy online, special agents seized a total of 313 websites identified to be selling counterfeit merchandise.
The domain name seizures during Operation Red Zone are the next iteration of Operation In Our Sites, a long term law enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the internet. The 313 domains and their websites have been seized by law enforcement, and are now in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and informs them that wilful copyright infringement is a federal crime. Since the launch of Operation In Our Sites in June 2010, the ICE HSI-led Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center has seized a total of 2,061 domain names.
HSI has continued to work closely with payment processor PayPal to identify bank accounts being used to facilitate the transfer of money to these illegal operations. To date, PayPal and HSI have identified and seized more than $66,000 in assets in these accounts.
“PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and as part of providing safe and trusted payments and commerce platforms,” said Tod Cohen, eBay’s vice president and deputy general counsel of government relations.
Operation Red Zone will continue this weekend at the Super Bowl, throughout the New Orleans-area and around the nation.
The operation was spearheaded by the IPR Center in coordination with the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and five U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, including the District of Maryland, District of New Jersey, District of Colorado, Eastern District of Louisiana and the District of Utah.
“In collaboration with the NFL and our (Department of Homeland Security) partners, we are providing critical support in the effort to protect consumers from counterfeit goods,” said Robert C. Gomez, director of field operations in Atlanta and New Orleans for CBP. “The enforcement of intellectual property rights is a national agency priority, and our CBP officers and import specialists are actively working to intercept these products. Counterfeit merchandise hurts our economy and, in many cases, presents safety issues. It is a potential source of funding illegal activities that present a threat to our national security.”