Government authorities shut down several counterfeit operations this year, seizing $19.5 million worth of fake sports merchandise, reports WWD. Dubbed "Operation Team Player," the federal agency teamed up with the NFL for this project after last year's Super Bowl.
During the year-long project, authorities made 52 arrests and confiscated over 326,000 items, including fake jerseys, hats, T-shirts, and Super Bowl-themed merchandise. Counterfeit goods were found by identifying international shipments, which helped authorities track down the warehouses and flea markets where the goods were being held and hawked.
The operation's success was announced at an NFL news conference in Phoenix, where this year's Super Bowl will take place. David Hirschmann, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, highlighted why it's especially important to crackdown on illegal goods at this time. "Major events like the Super Bowl can highlight an economic problem we face throughout the year—counterfeit products put good, high-paying jobs at risk in places like Seattle, New England and Phoenix," he said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Sarah Saldana spoke on the implications of fake goods. "Counterfeiting is not a game," she said at the same press conference. "It is most certainly not a victimless crime either. Whether it's the child in Southeast Asia working in deplorable conditions, or local stores going out of business, intellectual property theft is a very real crime with very real victims."
The crime fits the mold of other high-profile seizures, including ones in New York and Ohio where fake sports merchandise was the focus of multi-million dollar raids. Also, in the run up to the 2012 Super Bowl, authorities seized $4.8 million worth of knock off NFL merchandise.