Anti-Piracy Seizure Information
April 11, 2023 – How did counterfeit Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings end up in the Orlando Museum’s art exhibition? A “storage unit flipper” based in San Fernando Valley, California, admitted to a scheme whereby he and a friend created bogus Basquiats and sold them on eBay. According to Los Angeles court filings, his friend created each image, gave them to him to sell on eBay, and they would split the profits. They created 30-40 paintings using various materials on cardboard. His legitimate business was buying and selling items from unpaid storage units, and he used his business to create phony provenance for the counterfeit artwork. He told unsuspecting buyers that they were found in a storage unit rented by renowned screenwriter Thad Mumford, who bought his Basquiat collection in the 1980s from the artist for $5,000 and then abandoned them when he stopped paying the storage fees. For a while, their con worked, and the phony art circulated through the art world, landing in the ‘Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art. But then the FBI searched the museum and seized the bogus paintings.
What gave him away? On the back of one of the paintings, there was a mailing label on the cardboard that had been painted over, on which his name appeared. The case continues to be investigated by the FBI Art Crime Team.
May 24, 2023 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 4,000 counterfeit water filters at the Los Angeles and Long Beach port area, imported from China. If genuine, these filters would have a retail price of approximately $150,000. The water filters had fake “National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)” logos printed on the packaging, which, according to authorities, are hard to spot for the average consumer—and yet, it’s a matter of health and safety. NSF International is a third-party certification organization that tests products to ensure compliance with public health and safety requirements.
June 9, 2023 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors seized 41 luxury watches at the Los Angeles International Airport over the past five weeks. If authentic, they would have had a retail value of approximately $1.3 million. The watches, which were luxury brands like Omega and Rolex, were in separate packages, sent from China to various locations in the U.S. To avoid detection, they were declared as belt, bracelet, decoration, wall clock and watch box. The CBP warns the public that counterfeit watches are typically made with cheaper metals that, for people with sensitive skin, may cause allergic reactions.
June 27, 2023 – Following a month’s investigation, authorities discovered hundreds of counterfeit handbags and other fashion accessories in Cotati and Rohnert Park, California. In all, there were 270 pieces of counterfeit merchandise that violated trademark law. If genuine, they would have had a retail value of $1 million dollars. Two women were arrested for suspected trademark infringement, possession of counterfeit goods and felony conspiracy.
June 7, 2023 – A Florida man sold more than $100 million in counterfeit Cisco network equipment to schools, hospitals and the military. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the 39-year-old man, who plead guilty to the crime, had at least 19 businesses in Florida and New Jersey and set up 10 eBay and 15 Amazon storefronts from which he sold low-quality or defective networking devices, between 2013 and 2022. They were imported from Hong Kong and China sellers and made to look like legitimate Cisco gear, complete with Cisco labels, documentation and boxes. The inferior equipment caused thousands of dollars of damage to organizations’ networks and operations. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) became aware of the operation and seized 180 counterfeit shipments sent to the man’s companies. In response, he allegedly submitted false documentation. Over the years, Cisco issued several cease and desist notices. When he responded, he did so with forged or fraudulent documents. Despite all this, the counterfeit sales continued, until a year after agents raided his warehouse and seized more than 1,000 counterfeit network devices, when he was finally arrested and charged. As part of his plea deal, to reduce the charges of counterfeit goods trafficking and mail and wire fraud, he will have to give up $15 million in profits and reimburse his customers.
June 15, 2023 – Two women who tried to sell $1 million in counterfeit luxury goods at a “purse party” have been arrested and are facing felony counterfeiting charges. The owner of American Blue Pool Supply in Loxahatchee, Florida, along with another woman, had placed various knockoffs with designer labels such as Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton around the store. A brand expert found them to be counterfeits, which was confirmed by a sales rep. Investigators bought a counterfeit Cartier bracelet and Louis Vuitton wallet for $65—these two items, if authentic, have a retail value of $30,000. The total value of items in the store, if they were genuine, was found to be more than $1.25 million.
May 2, 2023 – A Cook County, Illinois woman was arrested in April for allegedly selling counterfeit luxury goods. Investigators searched her home in Bellwood and found more than 1,400 counterfeit products from exclusive designers like Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Items included handbags, clothing, jewelry and footwear. A brand expert confirmed these products to be fake. The retail value of these counterfeit goods, if genuine, was estimated at $2.1 million.
June 7, 2023 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, inspecting a package at Chicago O’Hare’s International Mail Facility that was marked “Fashion Sunglasses,” discovered far more than just glasses. In the shipment that was sent from Singapore, on its way to a private residence in Bedford, Indiana, in addition to counterfeit designer sunglasses purporting to be from Versace, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others, there were Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes socks. But it wasn’t just sunglasses and socks. There were also 22 counterfeit luxury high-end watches with counterfeit trademarks of Patek Phillipe, Rolex, Franck Muller and Adidas. If genuine, this merchandise would have had a retail value of nearly $638,000.
April 7, 2023 – Within 24 hours, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Louisville seized counterfeit jewelry worth more than $4.41 million. Spread across three shipments, this jewelry bore counterfeit designer trademarks of Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Givenchy, Tiffany & Company and others, including Major League Baseball brands. All three shipments originated in Hong Kong. The first two were addressed to a private Jeffersonville, Indiana residence and contained 933 sets of jewelry worth, if authentic, $3.7 million. The third package, sent to a Cleveland, Ohio residence, contained counterfeit pendants from several luxury and official MLB brands. The MSRP for genuine merchandise would have been $710,295. Trade experts confirmed all products to be counterfeit with bogus infringing trademarks.
May 11, 2023 – Just a month after another major counterfeit seizure, Louisville CBP officers discovered more than $3.1 million worth of counterfeit luxury goods. These 3,165 fake items were sent in three shipments, all from Hong Kong, contained counterfeit Van Cleef & Arpels, necklaces, heading to Miami, 10 fake Rolex watches on their way to Ontario, Canada, and various counterfeit handbags, earrings and necklaces with infringing trademarks from Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Disney, Versace and others, being sent to Laredo, Texas. A CBP official said that seizures like these happened every day. Each year, U.S. consumers spend $100 billion on counterfeit goods that infringe on intellectual property rights. Counterfeit jewelry can also contain toxic materials that are harmful to human health.
May 18, 2023 – A custom embroidery store owner in Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas was charged with selling counterfeit merchandise after officials conducted a raid on the mall. Police that searched the store, ALLFISHWEAR, found 983 counterfeit items that were worth more than $10,000. Counterfeited and forged trademarks included Gucci, Prada, Adidas, Chanel and Oakley.
June 21, 2023 – Two Long Island warehouses were raided by federal agents, who found millions of dollars in counterfeit products. The warehouses, in Deer Park and West Babylon, were packed with bogus household goods. This included Apple and Samsung electronics, Tiffany jewelry, contact lenses, Ray-Ban sunglasses, toys and water filters—all of them counterfeit and made in China. Some of the business neighbors thought the warehouses were abandoned; others thought they were Amazon fulfillment facilities or another type of legitimate business. The search warrants were conducted by Suffolk police, Homeland Security investigators and U.S. Border agents.
May 22, 2023 – Cincinnati-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seized a shipment of four counterfeit designer watches that, if genuine, would have been worth $577,000. The watches, originating from Hong Kong, were marked with bogus trademarks of Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Jacob & Co. The shipment had been headed to a Miami, Florida address.
April 9, 2023 – Philadelphia customs officers seized close to $200,000 of counterfeit auto parts, which included air bag covers. Shipped from China, these parts ranged from front fenders and bumpers to aluminum hoods, and had logos from Dodge, Buick and Chevrolet on them. If they had been authentic, the retail value would have been $196,035.s
May 18, 2023 – According to the Western District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Memphis, Tennessee man was arrested for importing counterfeit airbag parts from China, assembling them and selling them to individuals and auto repair shops through eBay. The 51-year-old faces charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods and criminal transportation of hazardous material by air. Federal agents conducting a raid on his Memphis business, Z Tire Shop & Auto, and his home, found bogus airbags and parts for Lexus, Honda, Toyota, Ford and Nissan. These counterfeit airbags put public safety at risk. If convicted, he could serve up to 10 years in prison for just the trafficking charge, with a $2 million fine.
May 26, 2023 – A Houston woman was charged for allegedly possessing more than $150,000 worth of luxury counterfeit merchandise with intent to sell. These inauthentic goods included shoes from Christian Dior, Nike, Adidas, Gucci, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton and sunglasses from Cartier and Balancia, in addition to clothing from Gucci and Channel, jewelry and purses. All had counterfeit trademarks.
April 25, 2023 – After inspecting four shipments destined for Fairfax County, Virginia, CBP officers in Dulles seized approximately $290,000 in counterfeit Apple watches and AirPods. The four shipments consisted of 1,000 Apple AirPods Pro and 50 Apple Watches. They were confirmed as counterfeit, with an estimated value, if genuine, of $289,550.
April 7, 2023 – A Ferndale, Washington woman was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement for counterfeit goods trafficking by the U.S. District Court in Seattle. Through her business, Keepin’ Up With Kara, she offered 467 items that were said to be genuine products from Prada, Nike, Christian Dior, Chanel, Adidas, Burberry and other luxury brands, but were in fact all counterfeit. They were priced much lower than the usual retail prices for authentic items. Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigations, aided by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, discovered dozens of shipments to the company that originated from Hong Kong and China, containing a wide variety of jewelry, wallets and handbags. Searches of her business, vehicle and home turned up more than 1,800 suspected counterfeit products, including scarves, purses, luggage tags, sunglasses, belts and other items.
April 16, 2023 – A popular live streamer was sentenced by a Chinese court to a year and 10 months of jail time and a fine of 800,000 RMB (approximately $110,619 USD) for selling counterfeit toys that displayed counterfeit registered trademarks that belong to Disney. Five other defendants received a year to a year and 8 months of prison time plus fines. These plush dolls were either printed with the company’s word mark, “DISNEY,” or the paws of the dolls had counterfeit marks like the Mickey Mouse head. The total sales of counterfeit products added up to more than 3 million RMB ($414,828 USD). The broadcaster admitted that he sold fake goods. He taught his staff to avoid customer questions and to call them by their animal names rather than trademarked names like LinaBell and StellaLou.
June 9, 2023 – According to Europol, law enforcement officers in 17 European countries arrested 378 individuals and seized approximately two million items of counterfeit shoes, clothing and accessories that had a retail value, if genuine, of approximately 87 million euros ($99.34 million USD). This massive operation, called Fake Star and running from March to December in 2022, nabbed primarily counterfeit luxury items and sports goods, which were typically promoted on various social media outlets. Most of the merchandise was clothing and footwear. Close to 4,000 inspections were conducted at a wide range of locations, including warehouses, flea markets, tourist areas and shops. Officials also operated in pop-up shops, ports and e-commerce shipping distribution companies. The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) reported that the seized counterfeit items were from 258 brands, and that their countries of origin were Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Turkey.
June 13, 2023 – In a different operation dubbed LUDUS III, police conducted more than 6,000 inspections and confiscated 16 million counterfeit toys with an estimated retail value of 79 million euros ($85.36 million USD). The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which assisted in the counterfeit toy seizure, mentioned that many of the items confiscated, such as dolls, building blocks, board games, puzzles and video games, posed serious risks to children’s safety and health. Some were fire or choking hazards and others had high levels of restricted or banned chemicals.
Police plan to use blockchain technology to track merchandise from creation through to its destination, to fight counterfeiting.
June 21, 2023 – Officials from the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs confiscated $28 million worth of counterfeit Nike shoes—or approximately 2.2 million pairs of fake sneakers. Nike applauded the efforts of Philippines customs officers, and the agency said that they continue to enforce intellectual property rights. StockX, an online marketplace that Nike accuses of allowing counterfeit products to be sold on their platform, reports that three Nike sneaker styles are among the five most frequently counterfeited sneakers.
June 30, 2023 – As part of local police efforts to shut down popular counterfeit markets in the Cheetham Hill and Strangeways areas of Manchester England, an enormous counterfeit clothing, jewelry and vape operation was uncovered. Clothing with fake luxury brand labels and questionable vape products were part of the £14 million (17.9 million USD) haul. Manchester police also closed down a huge warehouse in Rochdale, which was a distribution site for a large counterfeiting operation. Storeroom shelves were filled with counterfeit merchandise that included jewelry, watches, tobacco, footwear, clothing, vapes and accessories, with fake trademarks.
Read about U.S. and worldwide trademark infringement, intellectual property theft, anti-piracy busts and seizures of counterfeit merchandise.