HSI Houston, HPD, CBP seize more than $630K in counterfeit sporting goods in week leading up to Major League Soccer game

HOUSTON – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, the Houston Police Department (HPD) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized more than 6,593 items of counterfeit football merchandise with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of approximately $631 926 a week – a long multi-agency operation targeting counterfeit sporting goods in the Houston area.

The operation, held the week before a July 20 Major League Soccer preseason game at NRG Park, is part of a nationwide effort called “Operation Team Player.” The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPRC) and the Premier League assisted during the operation.

“Major sporting events routinely attract transnational criminal organizations and other nefarious actors involved in the illegal sale of counterfeit merchandise and tickets,” said Mark Dawson, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI Houston is committed to working with our partners from other law enforcement agencies and private industry to aggressively investigate trademark counterfeiting to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for legitimate businesses.”

“This operation exemplifies the commitment of CBP and its partners to disrupting the flow of illegitimate, counterfeit goods and the hundreds of thousands of dollars generated from their sales that fund criminal enterprises,” said Jude Murdock, CBP Houston Field Operations Director. “Counterfeit goods threaten American innovation and the livelihoods of workers employed by the right holder, which is why intellectual property rights remain a priority for CBP.”

“Public-private partnerships are key to the success of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordinating Center (IPC),” said Jim Mancuso, Director of the IPC. “By joining forces and working together, HSI, CBP and the Premier League can better ensure that football fans around the world spend their hard-earned money to support their favorite club, receiving only genuine, high-quality officially licensed merchandise in return .”

HSI works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement through Operation Team Player, a year-long effort developed by the IPR Center to address the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and recreational goods. Last year, between February 2021 and February 2022, authorities seized more than 267,511 counterfeit sports-related items with an estimated retail value of $97.8 million during Operation Team Player.

In fiscal year 2021, HSI Houston seized more than 2 million counterfeit goods valued at approximately $23.8 million. Of the counterfeit items seized in the Houston area, approximately 51,000 were counterfeit garments valued at approximately $7.2 million.

Members of the public who suspect they have encountered counterfeit goods or merchandise are encouraged to report it to local law enforcement or by calling the HSI hotline at 1-866-DHS-2423. The public can also visit IPRCenter.gov and click on “Report IP Theft” to submit a tip online anonymously.

For more news and information on HSI Houston’s efforts to combat the illegal importation and sale of counterfeit goods, follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.

HSI is a directorate of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the lead investigative unit of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, particularly those criminal organizations that exploit global infrastructure, through which international trade, travel and finance. HSI’s workforce of more than 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities in the United States and 86 overseas locations in 55 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest law enforcement investigative presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

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