CHICAGO–On March 31, two passengers returning together from Turkey were asked by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers if they had anything to declare. Initially, they did not declare anything, but during a secondary inspection they declared $2,000 worth of “gifts.” Officers inspected their seven large duffel bags for smuggled contraband and found an estimated MSRP value (i.e., if genuine goods) of $552,000 of counterfeit designer apparel.   Seizure

More than 550 counterfeit items of varying protected trademarks were seized from the passengers, including from well-known brands like Adidas, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Versace. The passengers, both from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, said the items were primarily for family and friends.  The passengers strategically interspersed between used clothing and other items various designer and luxury shoes, tops, handbags, wallets, pants, belts, jackets, perfumes, sunglasses, dresses, and hats. Additionally, the passengers had a large quantity of dust-bags for footwear and handbags and new, clear plastic bags commonly used to display retail-ready clothing. The items varied in size and style and were consistent with items to be resold for commercial purposes. 

CBP contacted Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which serves as the largest investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. After interviewing the passengers, criminal prosecution was accepted by the Cook County (IL) State’s Attorney’s Office. The passengers were arrested by HSI and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department on criminal complaints signed by representatives of Louis Vuitton and Chanel for the infringing goods found in the passengers’ luggage. The passengers have since been indicted and prosecution is ongoing. 

“The smuggling and illegal sales of counterfeit merchandise is a growing threat to our economy, and U.S. jobs, that cannot stand,” said Shane Campbell, Area Port Director-Chicago. “Those travelers who are found to be smuggling counterfeit items will face consequences for the harm they do to the U.S. economic well-being.”

“HSI Chicago places particular emphasis on protecting the health and safety of U.S. consumers as well as investigating criminal organizations engaged in transnational Intellectual Property crime, and pursuing the illegal proceeds derived from sales of counterfeit merchandise” said Angie Salazar, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Chicago. “Through our combined enforcement actions with CBP and the Cook County Sheriff’s office in this prosecution it is our mission is to coordinate and enhance IP enforcement and raise the awareness of the economic and social impact of the trade in counterfeit products.”

Counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 billion and $250 billion per year, are responsible for the loss of 750,000 American jobs, and pose a threat to health and safety. CBP and HSI protect the intellectual property rights of American businesses through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights enforcement program, safeguarding them from unfair competition and use for malicious intent while upholding American innovation and ingenuity. Suspected violations can be reported to CBP here.

CBP has established an educational initiative, Truth Behind Counterfeits, to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers that are often associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods. The agency encourages anyone with information about counterfeit merchandise illegally imported into the United States to submit an e-Allegation. The e-Allegation system provides a means for the public to anonymously report to CBP any suspected violations of trade laws or regulations related to the importation of goods in the U.S.

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

Follow us on Twitter @CBPChicago @DFOChicago and @HSIChicago.



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Author: Editor
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