Anti-Piracy Agents Seize $6.2M Worth Of Sports Merchandise
POSTED: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 2:39pm
UPDATED: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 12:11pm
Michigan man also arrested for criminal copyright infringement, operated websites that distributed copyrighted sporting events
INDIANAPOLIS – “Operation Fake Sweep,” a nationwide enforcement operation targeting stores, flea markets and street vendors selling counterfeit sports gear across the country has yielded “record-breaking” results.
The announcement came from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at Thursday’s NFL news conference after $6.4 million worth of knock-off sports merchandise has been seized since its October commencement. Teams comprised of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, CBP, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana State police are partnered with the NFL in this effort.
A literal sweep of various stores, flea markets, street vendors and even websites all over the country targeted the sale of counterfeit sports jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, and other souvenirs being sold. With only days before Sunday’s anticipated Super Bowl, ICE and CBP teams confiscated more than 42-thousand items of phony Super Bowl memorabilia with a total take of $4.8 million.
"While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans," said ICE Director Morton. "In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law."
Furthering ICE HSI efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy online, special agents seized a total of 307 websites. Sixteen of the sites illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games. Two hundred ninety-one website domain names were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise.
So far, one arrest has been reported in Operation Fake Sweep. Yonjo Quiroa, 28, of Comstock Park, Mich. was arrested Wednesday by special agents with ICE HSI. He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet. Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and he operated them from his home in Michigan until Wednesday’s arrest.
"The NFL is committed to protecting fans and local businesses from being victimized by counterfeiters who are looking to profit illegally off of the public's enthusiasm for the NFL," said NFL Vice President Danias. "We are grateful for ICE Homeland Security Investigations' tireless efforts in combating intellectual property theft and are pleased to be working along with them and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on this important issue."
“Operation Fake Sweep” will continue this weekend at Super Bowl events and venues throughout the Indianapolis-area and around the nation.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.