Federal officials, led by a Homeland Security team out of Charleston, said they seized $21.6 million worth of counterfeit NFL merchandise heading up to this weekend’s Super Bowl.
Operation Team Player ended with 50 arrests and more than 163 websites seized, according to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The operation began in June and targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise as it entered the United States. Authorities said they identified warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the country.
The Charleston office of Homeland Security Investigations was responsible for identifying and shutting down the websites that were offering the phony merchandise. ICE investigators said agents would purchase items from a website to determine if they were authentic. Once a website was seized, a banner was placed on the page notifying visitors to the sites that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and informing them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
Federal officials say most of the knockoff jerseys, hats, and other items were made in China, then smuggled into the United States and sold illegally.