MIAMI — As the Super Bowl inches closer, authorities want you to be aware of crooks trying to steal your money by claiming fake merchandise is real.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations says it seized more than 176,000 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $123 million.
It was through a collaborative enforcement operation targeting international shipments of counterfeit merchandise into the United States, part of Operation Team Player.
“Every day, cargo containers containing billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods enter the United States through its land, sea and air ports of entry. This year’s record-breaking ‘Operation Team Player’ results affirm HSI’s commitment to protecting American consumers, the economy, and legitimate business, by ensuring Super Bowl LIV is not compromised by transnational criminal networks exploiting fan enthusiasm for illicit profits. Sports fans from around the world, who’ve spent their hard-earned money to support their favorite NFL team, deserve to receive genuine, high-quality officially licensed merchandise in return,” said HSI-led IPR Center Director Steve Francis during a Thursday news conference.
Special agents teamed up with Miami-Dade police officers and other partner agencies to identify flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV. They seized fake jerseys, jewelry, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other bogus items prepared to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.
Last year, authorities announced that enforcement actions related to Operation Team Player resulted in the seizure of $24.2 million worth of counterfeit sports-merchandise.
This year’s Operation Team Player began at the conclusion of last year’s Super Bowl.
“When fans spend their hard earned money on NFL tickets and merchandise, they deserve the real deal,” said MDPD Maj. Eric Garcia. “The Miami-Dade Police Department is fully committed to collaborating and partnering with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to proactively enforce laws related to counterfeit merchandise in order to protect businesses and consumers.”
Lamar Jackson with Homeland Security Investigations says, “on the authentic jerseys, the material is really heavy, one of the easier ways to tell is the precision with which they put the numbers on, crisp and clear, if you look at the counterfeit one, on the inside you see all the excess paper, obviously a very sloppy job."
Experts also recommend you buy from well known retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s. If you are buying merchandise online or through Amazon, be careful of third party sellers and look for a verifiable location and address.