News: Operation Holiday Hoax
Story by Paul Caffrey
WASHINGTON - $26 million in counterfeit goods seized Joint operations in 41 cities, Puerto Rico and Mexico seized tons of counterfeit holiday ornaments, DVDs, CDs, clothing, electronics, cosmetics, phones and pharmaceuticals.
The partners of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, state and local law enforcement and the government of Mexico announced the seizures of millions of dollars of counterfeit products in Operation Holiday Hoax, a week of joint law enforcement activities targeting counterfeiters and trademark pirates, their distributors, associates, shippers, warehouses, salesmen and vendors in the United States and Mexico. More than 708,250 products were seized in 41 locations around the U.S. Seven persons were arrested and charged in New York and Texas.
Mexico seized 255 tons of counterfeit products during parallel operations.
During Operation Holiday Hoax, which ran from Dec. 8, 2009, to Dec. 13, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other federal agents and officers in 41 U.S. cities worked in partnership with local law enforcement agencies targeting small businesses, stores, swap meets, flea markets, shippers and vendors involved in the distribution of counterfeit products. The items seized included counterfeit Christmas ornaments, toys, DVDs, CDs, clothing, footwear, handbags, sports clothing, perfume, stationery, cosmetics, hygiene products, electronics, phones and pharmaceuticals. Early estimates of the worth of the products seized put the combined manufacturer's suggested retail price at more than $26 million.
The announcement at a news conference at the ICE-led IPR Center in Crystal City, Va., was made by John Morton, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE, which manages the IPR Center. He was joined by leaders from federal law enforcement, the motion picture and recording industries, Underwriters Laboratories, and the government of Mexico.
"Operation 'Holiday Hoax' struck the counterfeiters and counterfeit vendors just when their inventories were at their peak. This is the season these criminals lure in unwitting holiday shoppers and sell them substandard and sometimes dangerous goods," said Morton. "Besides putting a dent in the criminals' holiday profits, we are getting out the word to consumers that counterfeits are everywhere. Even when the product itself is not dangerous, buying them harms the economy and the industries that create the real thing."
"Intellectual property is one of this nation's most vital assets. As goods flow more freely between countries across the globe, protecting intellectual property has become even more critical to our economic security and to preserving America's role as a global leader in innovation," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the DOJ's Criminal Division. "The Department of Justice and our partners will continue to hold accountable criminals who profit off the creativity and hard work of others."
"The government of Mexico is committed to addressing the threat posed by the manufacture and sale of counterfeit items. This is a global threat and we are therefore working aggressively with our international counterparts to interdict and investigate these counterfeit violations. Operation Holiday Hoax is an excellent example of the success that can be attained through collaborative efforts with our counterparts at the National IPR Center," said Jose Martin Garcia, representative of the Mexican Ministry of Finance, Embassy of Mexico.
"Working together, key federal law enforcement agencies and the entertainment industry have struck a real blow to the illegal trafficking of pirated and counterfeit goods during the important holiday season," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America. "It's unfortunately an often lucrative 'business' that is the breeding ground for other dangerous criminal activity and it undermines our ability to invest in the new bands of tomorrow. It also takes money directly out of the pocket of working musicians, songwriters and many others who work countless hours to create great music and bring it to the public. We're grateful for the hard work and dedication of federal agents we worked closely with on this important initiative."
"More than 2.4 million American jobs are supported by the movie and television industry alone. Each of the pirated DVDs shown here today - represents a theft, not just from the motion picture studios, but from the hard earned wages of these men and women working in all 50 states of our union. In these difficult economic times, that is a price our workers, our industry, and indeed, our nation cannot afford. So we applaud the law enforcement agencies here today for their commitment and dedication to our common struggle," said Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
"As an organization dedicated to protecting the safety of consumers around the globe, we find the proliferation of counterfeit, substandard products particularly troubling," said Gus Schaefer, public safety officer, Underwriters Laboratories. "Everyone feels the effects of product counterfeiting - not only legitimate manufacturers and reputable retailers, but most importantly, consumers who are unaware of potential safety hazards in products where profit is the only priority. Underwriters Laboratories knows the only way to effectively deal with these crimes is through partnership and coordinated efforts between industry, federal agencies, and law enforcement worldwide. Today, we see how enforcement and partnership contributes to keeping all of us safer."
Operations were carried out in 26 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Mexico. U.S. teams also conducted inspection operations at six international mail and express courier facilities, targeting parcels inbound from high-risk countries. In addition, Mexico conducted parallel operations targeting counterfeit products and NAFTA violations at its ports, local distribution sites and local transportation routes.
The ICE-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting. The IPR Center offers one-stop shopping for both law enforcement and the private sector to address the growing transnational threat of counterfeit merchandise. The IPR Center coordinates outreach to U.S. rights holders and conducts domestic and international law enforcement training to stem the growing counterfeiting threat as well as coordinating and directing anti-counterfeiting investigations.