Anti-Piracy Seizure Information
March 9, 2023 – An 82-year-old man was arrested in Denver who allegedly sold counterfeit sports trading cards to unsuspecting victims, defrauding them of more than $800,000. The complaint, read in Brooklyn’s federal court, charged the Denver man with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. It is alleged that from April 2015 to July 2019, he conspired with other individuals to sell and trade counterfeit trading cards through online platforms, falsely claiming that the sports cards were authenticated by a professional company. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, victims of the scheme lost approximately $800,000, both in cash and in the value of authentic cards traded for bogus ones. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York Police Department investigated the case, and the accused will be arraigned in New York later.
February 24, 2023 – A Palm Beach, Florida art dealer has pled guilty to selling counterfeit prints that he claimed were by legendary artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol–for tens of thousands of dollars per print. In exchange for pleading guilty to money laundering, the federal court agreed to drop 16 other charges filed against him. The counterfeit operation was uncovered by an FBI special agent who filed a complaint with the court, alleging that the dealer was hawking fake art out of his gallery, Danieli Fine Art.
Agents raided that gallery, as well as another, Galerie Danieli, after witnesses reported forgeries said to be by renowned artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. An undercover FBI agent bought counterfeit Warhol art titled “Superman,” which had a phony stamp on the back, saying that it was from the Carnegie Museum of Art. According to the complaint, the dealer was buying cheap reproductions from online auctions and reselling them as originals, at greatly inflated prices. Sometimes, he created phony documents as proof of the art’s authenticity, which were gathered as evidence during subsequent FBI stings. In the final purchase, the undercover agent arranged to buy his entire collection, which included works supposedly Georgia O’Keefe, Banksy, Basquiat and Haring. What’s more, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that the man was prohibited from owning or working at any gallery, having arrived in the U.S. on a travel visa. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, he also fraudulently applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
UPI – Adam Schrader – February 24, 2023
February 8, 2023 – Chicago-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), thwarted at attempt to bring in more than $465,000 in counterfeit merchandise and $76,000 of phony currency into the U.S. They conducted two busts at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. In the first seizure, they discovered five packages from different shipments from China which contained phony bills marked as “prop money,” although it’s still illegal to reproduce currency. The second bust was of an American arriving from a trip to Turkey. He said he bought $1,000 of products for friends and family, but these items were all counterfeits. They included handbags, designer watches, clothes, jewelry and sunglasses, with a retail price, if genuine, of $465,798.
January 2, 2023 – In Louisville, Kentucky, CBP officers (the U.S. Customs and Border Protection) seized a shipment of counterfeit Chanel earrings, 4,920 pairs in total. The fake earrings, which bore Chanel logos, were confiscated for trademark infringement. They originated in China and were on their way to Maryland. If genuine, the value would have been $1.37 million. The Louisville CBP officers say that they have been seeing nightly shipments of counterfeit jewelry from locations that are notorious for producing fake products.
Between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022, CBP officers in Louisville seized more than $260 million in counterfeit merchandise. Three individual seizures of fake jewelry had a value, if real, of $10.13 million. There were 35 seizures of counterfeit watches, the most expensive type of clothing item; if genuine, they would have been worth $36.1 million.
February 9, 2023 – Following a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a federal judge has sentenced a couple from Columbia for attempted smuggling of counterfeit DVDs into the U.S., for sale on eBay. Agents were notified that the man had received more than 44 shipments of counterfeit DVDs from businesses in Hong Kong that were known by authorities to export counterfeit products. Two shipments containing counterfeit Disney DVDs—”Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast”—were seized in transit. Undercover agents also bought counterfeit Disney DVDs from their eBay account. They claimed the DVDs were authentic, even though they knew they were counterfeit. Sales assistants reported that customers made complaints, including that the DVDs did not work. According to court filings, virtually all of the couple’s income came from selling counterfeit products. When the couple had their account suspended by eBay, they found other people to sell the DVDs. In addition, the woman obtained SNAP benefits to which she wasn’t entitled, which she must now pay back, in addition to being sentenced to four years in federal prison. Her husband received a one-year sentence.
January 12, 2023 – Following an investigation, Nassau County police arrested the owner of Max & Gino’s, a clothing store on Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury, New York. Police found counterfeit Gucci, Chanel and other luxury brands on display in the store, and this merchandise was confiscated at the same time as the arrest. The owner was charged with trademark counterfeiting in the second degree and ordered to appear in court.
February 22, 2023 – In Lock Haven, Pennsylvania state troopers seized counterfeit merchandise with a value, if genuine, of $1.7 million. Following a report that counterfeit goods were being sold on Facebook, they opened a months-long investigation and made undercover purchases. Even though the woman moved mid-investigation, officials continue to see international packages arrive steadily to her door. This eventually led to a raid on her home, where they found counterfeit purses, clothing, jewelry and wallets from brands like Prada, Versace, Chanel, Adidas, Hermès and Christian Dior. She was selling these counterfeit products through her website called “Bella Boutique” and posted photos of items on her Facebook page. The Organized Crime until discovered 3,053 counterfeit items, and the woman was charged with second-degree felony trademark counterfeiting.
February 13, 2023 – The South Carolina Secretary of State announced that counterfeit products were seized from Kirk’s Collectibles, located at the Anderson Mall, in Anderson, South Carolina. These bogus items included counterfeit Super Bowl rings and championship rings for the NCAA, MLB, NHL and NBA. Rings with logos from local colleges University of South Carolina and Clemson University were also found. If authentic, this sports-related jewelry would have had a value exceeding $15 million. The investigation was conducted by the Secretary of State’s Office, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations. No arrests have yet been made but the investigation is ongoing.
March 2, 2023 – A Kingwood-based man was sentenced in San Antonio’s federal court to five years of probation for selling counterfeit Native American jewelry online. He was found guilty of misrepresentation of Indian Goods under the Indian Arts and Crafts act, in addition to mail fraud. The bogus jewelry was marketed and sold as “genuine Indian handcrafted,” “Navajo” and “Zuni.” He purchased the counterfeit jewelry from a Philippines manufacturer who was not affiliated with any federally recognized tribe. In addition to probation, he will lose his inventory and must pay an artist who was a victim of his crime.
March 16, 2023 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents intercepted 4,080 counterfeit U.S. postage stamps arriving to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The found the fake stamps, which came in 12 shipments from China, to be of poor print quality. There has been a rise in counterfeit U.S. postage stamps being sold online, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service warns consumers about heavily discounted postage. This hurts the postal service as well as consumers, if their package is delayed or returned—and it may even be thrown out. Counterfeiting or even possessing fake postage is a federal crime that can bring a prison sentence of up to five years.
March 23, 2023 – In Norfolk, Virginia, customs agents seized more than $700,000 of counterfeit designer brand clothing, purses, sneakers, scarves and other merchandise. They first examined the shipment from Seoul, South Korea in early February, which was being sent to an address in Chesapeake. The package contained 68 items bearing counterfeit designer brand trademarks of Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, Hermes, Gucci and others. The officers suspected these goods were counterfeit and were able to verify this with help from trade experts. If genuine, these counterfeit consumer products would have had a retail value of $708,097.
February 21, 2023 – In Pasay City, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized counterfeit luxury goods worth approximately P1.5 billion (approximately $27 million USD). The BOC reported that the items were discovered by the Intellectual Property Rights Division of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS-IPRD) while inspecting a storage facility in the city. As they explained, counterfeit merchandise not just harms the brands but also undermines local manufacturers. As importers of counterfeit goods become more sophisticated, more work is needed to intercept these shipments.
March 18, 2023 – Two Singapore men were arrested for allegedly being involved in the sale of counterfeit Apple AirPods on the Singapore-based online marketplace Carousell. Police were alerted through complaints from victims who said they were tricked into purchasing fake AirPods. They were described as authentic and packaged in sealed boxes bearing serial numbers, which victims discovered, upon opening, to be fake. Police seized 18 boxes of counterfeit Apple AirPods and three phones as court exhibits. If found guilty, the men could receive prison sentences up to 10 years in addition to a fine.
Channel News Asia – March 18, 2023
February 20, 2023 – Police officers from the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) arrested a Chinese man on suspicion of selling counterfeit electronics with a value of more than 20 million baht (approximately $575,000 USD). The police discovered fake electronic devices and phones during a raid at a Don Mueang district warehouse. Upon searching three buildings, they discovered the 56-year-old Chinese national working there, along with four Laotians. He said that he was hired by a Chinese businessman to manage the warehouse, admitted that the counterfeit merchandise was being sold online, and explained that his 30,000 baht monthly salary was more than he would earn in China. He was charged with possession of counterfeit goods and police are looking for the illegal business’s owner.
A week earlier, officers from Thailand’s Consumer Protection Division (CPD) searched two locations in Bangkok’s Prawet District and Samut Prakan province. They discovered substandard medical supplies and counterfeit cosmetics with approximately 14 million baht ($402,646 USD). A Chinese national who claimed to be just an employee was found and taken into police custody. These counterfeit products had come from China.
Thaiger – Tara Abhasakun – February 20, 2023
United Arab Emirates
March 1, 2023 – Authorities in the city of Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates seized 214,000 counterfeit clothing items with a retail value, if genuine, of Dh91 million ($24.7 million USD) from an abandoned warehouse. When the property was searched, officers found counterfeit clothing with logos from 28 international brands. The company responsible for this fraud was not based in the city and was storing its illegal merchandise in abandoned buildings. It would then transfer the products to other emirates and sell them at lower prices than originals would have sold for. The Department of Commercial Control and Protection coordinated efforts with the Ras Al Khaimah Police’s Criminal Investigation Department to raid the site and seize both goods and vehicles used in transport.
January 20, 2023 – Trading Standards officers in the U.K., along with company trademark experts, seized hundreds of suspected counterfeit designer products from luxury brands like Chanel, Dior, Burberry and Louis Vuitton in a raid on a Kensington shop. This followed allegations that the store was selling counterfeit merchandise. The fake merchandise is valued at approximately £200,000 (U.S. $247,851), if genuine. There were 467 total suspected phony designer handbags, jackets, coats and accessories. Many of the suspected bogus products were found on the floor, with more items discovered in the basement. They were being sold as if they were authentic, with prices ranging from £250 to £1,000 ($309 to $1,238), so consumers did not realize they were counterfeit. If convicted the perpetrator could be sent to prison for up to 10 years and face an unlimited fine, in addition to having any “proceeds of crime” confiscated.
January 27, 2023 – In a single raid, Greater Manchester Police have shut down 13 stores on the city’s notorious “Counterfeit Street.” They were all located in one building that was divided into separate units. The building was deemed unsafe and was condemned and all the units were shuttered. Dubbed Operation Vulcan, this action is part of an effort to dismantle this section of the city where illegal merchandise is regularly sold, including counterfeit perfume, clothing and accessories worth millions of pounds.
February 23, 2023 – The trading standards group of Rochdale Borough Council has shut down a counterfeit merchandise operation in Manchester that was raking in as much as £65 million (approximately $84 million USD) annually. Agents seized illegal vapes, cigarettes and tobacco from various shops. In Heywood, they saw two suspicious-looking men loading products into a storage bin. Once questioned, they discovered that the men had a connection to ten more rented storage containers around the city. Searches uncovered high-value counterfeit clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, watches, perfume and cosmetics. Around 60,000 items were confiscated, which had an estimated retail value of £9 million. The trading standards team, in the following month’s investigation, found a local trader connected to a wide distribution network of counterfeit merchandise operating across the country. The size of the operation was huge, adding up to more than £1 million weekly.
March 1, 2023 – UK police conducted raids in London, Glasgow, Stoke and Edinburgh, in an ongoing operation to fight online piracy. The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) made four arrests, and one individual was charged with intellectual property theft. Their focus was on a popular illegal streaming operation that was said to have over half a million users. More than 200 ‘cease and desist’ notices were served on those they suspected of running infringing streaming platforms. As police explain, proceeds from these illegal ventures are frequently used to fund other criminal activity. Despite this crackdown, online piracy continues to be widespread. Free torrents and streams of TV shows, films and sports games are readily accessible. Many online platforms aid these criminals. For example, the search site DuckDuckGo refuses to remove pirate sites from its search results.