More than 70 people arrested; over 5,000 websites seized in coordination with NFL
WASHINGTON — Federal officials announced Thursday the final record-breaking results of Operation Team Player, the nationwide law enforcement effort aimed at combatting counterfeit sports merchandise.
Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) teamed with officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to target, seize and investigate criminal businesses smuggling international shipments of counterfeit merchandise as it entered the United States. Agents also targeted warehouses, stores, flea markets, online stores and street vendors. The operation, which began in June, netted 397,140 items including fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs. The items had a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of more than $37.8 million – more than the previous six Super Bowl enforcement efforts combined.
HSI and CBP also teamed with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and state and local police departments around the country – all in partnership with the NFL and other major sports leagues. The operation was coordinated by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C.
"The incredible results this year are a tribute to the teamwork displayed between our agencies working together at the IPR Center," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins. "But it is also an eye-opening reminder of the breadth of this significant problem that we face. Counterfeiters are crippling the U.S. economy, robbing small businesses of much-needed income during tough economic times."
Following the Super Bowl, in addition to the items seized, law enforcement officers made 76 arrests in relation to Operation Team Player: three at the federal level and 73 at the state and local level. Additionally, 163 counterfeit tickets with an estimated value of $169,200 were also seized. During a one-week blitz at various shipping facilities, CBP officers were able to seize more than 73,000 items with an MSRP of more than $7 million. HSI special agents also conducted enforcement operations at the victory parade in Seattle seizing an additional 1,300 items.
"The continued coordination of the federal partners is integral to the success of Intellectual Property Rights enforcement," said CBP Assistant Commissioner Susan T. Mitchell. "Together with partners like ICE HSI, USPIS, and the IPR Center we are able to protect American businesses from criminal activities that affect their bottom line."
For the first time, Mexico's Servicio de Administracion Tributaria (SAT) also conducted operations related to sports merchandise seizures during Super Bowl week. Working with the IPR Center, SAT conducted "Operation Fumble" in some of the largest cities of Mexico, seizing more than 3,000 items worth more than 1.5 million pesos.
Team Player is an ongoing operation that targets counterfeit sports apparel from all of the major sports leagues. Enforcement operations are currently being conducted in New Orleans as part of the NBA All-Star weekend.
The HSI-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.