U.S. and Worldwide Busts – October-December 2023

Anti-Piracy Seizure Information

California | Florida | Georgia | Indiana | Missouri | New York | North Carolina | Ohio | Puerto Rico | South Carolina | Utah | Worldwide: Hong Kong


October 4, 2023 – Two brothers from San Diego orchestrated an elaborate scheme over eight years, attempting to swap 10,000 fake iPhones and iPads with real ones at Apple Stores. Their ploy netted them $6.1 million worth of genuine Apple products, shipped abroad for sale. Caught in 2019, they’ve been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and must forfeit assets, including five residences and $250,000 earned from the scam. Spouses received probation, and a third brother awaits sentencing. Additionally, eight accomplices pleaded guilty. This elaborate ruse mirrors a similar case involving an Oregon student scamming Apple Stores, albeit on a smaller scale. The brothers’ endeavor involved over 1,400 device swap attempts across numerous states and Canada, marking a more extensive and audacious operation than previously encountered.

The Verge – Umar Shakir – October 4, 2023


November 9, 2023 – A Boca Raton husband and wife were arrested following a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigation prompted by a tip-off. The couple allegedly sold knockoff luxury items at significantly reduced prices. Undercover deputies made purchases, seizing counterfeit Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Fendi items. A search of their business and residence uncovered $414,500 in fake merchandise, $150,822 cash, 13 firearms, and 104 pounds of ammunition. Both face felony charges for selling counterfeit goods and were released on $3,000 bonds each after being arrested.

WPTV – Allen Cone – November 9, 2023


November 3, 2023 – The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office arrested a local woman after a probe into counterfeit goods. Initiated from reports by Gatekeeper Global, detectives found over 12,000 fake handbags, wallets, and accessories at her Dallas, GA residence, including knockoffs from luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and more. The woman surrendered and now faces charges for selling items with forged trademarks. The seized goods, if genuine, would have amounted to $11,675,885. Sheriff Gary Gulledge cautioned against buying suspiciously low-priced branded items online and emphasized the impact on legitimate businesses. Sergeant Ashley Henson highlighted that selling knockoffs knowingly is illegal, impacting rightful earnings and potentially involving unethical manufacturing practices abroad. Further charges might surface as the investigation progresses.

WSB-TV – November 3, 2023


October 6, 2023 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Indianapolis intercepted two shipments from China, containing 362 counterfeit designer watches. CBP’s experts assessed the watches, featuring logos of brands like Versace, Michael Kors, Rolex, and Gucci, determining them as fake due to poor packaging, construction, and lacking serial numbers. The combined Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the seized items totaled over $2 million. Destined for a residence in Mesquite, Texas, these knockoffs violated trademark rights, prompting CBP to seize them. If authentic, the watches’ MSRP would have exceeded $2.43 million. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – October 6, 2023


December 14, 2023 – A Stone County woman pleaded guilty for selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton products online, including bracelets and hair ties. Operating from her partner’s residence, they ran a wholesale business supplying boutiques. The counterfeit items, sourced from China and Hong Kong, were distributed in the U.S. using wire communications for transactions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized a shipment in May 2022 addressed to her. They sold counterfeits on three occasions to undercover ICE agents and admitted trafficking 200 fake Louis Vuitton bracelets, yielding the company over $70,000. Facing a potential 10-year sentence, she awaits sentencing after her guilty plea in December 2022.

OzarksFirst.com – Ben Gilbert – December 14, 2023

New York

November 15, 2023 – The US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, with HSI (the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations) and NYPD, announced the seizure of 219,000 counterfeit luxury items valued at $1.03 billion. Two men were charged with trafficking counterfeit goods. Seized items from Manhattan facilities totaled over 133,000 goods with an estimated MSRP of $739 million. The defendants allegedly ran large-scale trafficking operations, with locations yielding 83,000 counterfeits worth $502 million, and other premises yielding 50,000 items valued at $237 million. This marks the largest-ever seizure of counterfeit goods in US history, reflecting a collaborative effort to combat counterfeit trafficking in New York City.

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York – November 15, 2023

November 21, 2023 – At the Buffalo Port of Entry, CBP officers seized multiple counterfeit designer items labeled as ‘gift items.’ The package contained fake handbags and sneakers, flagged for bearing counterfeit trademarks. Estimated at an $18,800 Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), these inauthentic goods violated intellectual property rights. CBP’s efforts during the holiday shopping season aim to caution against purchasing low-quality and potentially hazardous counterfeits. Port Director Gaetano Cordone emphasized their dedication to identifying such violations, safeguarding consumers, and preserving the economy.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – November 21, 2023

North Carolina

December 7, 2023 – A Durham resident faces multiple felony charges for selling $200,000 worth of counterfeit shoes and possessing illegal substances and firearms. Authorities charged him with seven felonies, including trafficking opium, firearm possession, and maintaining a building for drug-related activities. The seized items included 984 pairs of fake Nike sneakers, 86 Adidas pairs, 36 Timberland boots, and 11 Nike/Louis Vuitton shoes, totaling over 1,000 counterfeit goods. If authentic, the estimated retail value would reach $192,000. N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall warned about the risks of buying counterfeit products, emphasizing the harm they cause to legitimate businesses and consumers. Marshall initiated the Counterfeiting Task Force in 2004, responsible for over 7,500 cases and seizing over $190 million in counterfeit goods since its establishment.

WRAL News – December 7, 2023


November 1, 2023 – In Ohio, Cincinnati’s CBP officers intercepted three shipments from Hong Kong between Oct. 25 and Oct. 28, containing nearly 800 counterfeit jewelry pieces and designer watches. Brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Cartier were among the counterfeited logos. The estimated worth of the seized items would have been around $3.16 million if authentic. Shipments heading to Texas and Florida residences included fake pieces from Van Cleef, Rolex, and Dior. All seized items were referred to Homeland Security Investigations for detailed scrutiny and potential action. 

WHIO TV 7 – November 1, 2023

November 27, 2023 – In Cincinnati, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized a fake Richard Mille watch from India, estimated at $3.78 million if genuine. The specific RM 88 Smiley edition, produced only 50 times, heightened its value. Despite black market attempts to replicate it, the lack of fine details and packaging betrayed its authenticity. CBP emphasizes caution when purchasing from unknown online sources, warning of criminal funding through counterfeit sales. Another seizure from Hong Kong to Texas comprised fake jewelry and watches, totaling $846,695 in MSRP, including brands like Rolex and Chanel. CBP’s expertise flagged these counterfeits, underlining their vigilance against illicit merchandise trafficking.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – November 27, 2023

December 18, 2023 – Cincinnati’s CBP intercepted 11 shipments of counterfeit jewelry, arriving from India, Hong Kong, and Indonesia between December 1-7, valued at $6.96 million if authentic. Seized items included fake pieces from Versace, Fendi, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co. destined for North Carolina. The haul also encompassed sets from Cartier, Michael Kors, and Gucci, headed to residences in North Carolina and Maryland. Notable were 650 fake Van Cleef pieces ($1.7 million MSRP), 102 Rolex watches ($3 million potential value), and various counterfeit items mimicking Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex logos. All seizures, totaling fake jewelry and watches, were confirmed counterfeit by CBP experts due to packaging and lacking intricate details, breaching trademark protection.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Writer – December 18, 2023

Puerto Rico

November 3, 2023 – In Puerto Rico, CBP seized 44 shipments within two days from express consignment facilities, totaling an estimated $873,000 in MSRP if authentic. The seized products, including clothing, footwear, jewelry, purses, and watches, originated from China, Colombia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Efrain Rivas, Assistant Director of Field Operations for Trade at the San Juan Field Office, highlighted the pervasive threat of counterfeit goods to America’s innovation economy, business competitiveness, worker livelihoods, and even national security and consumer safety. CBP’s action underscores their commitment to protecting intellectual property and preserving the legitimacy of commerce.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – November 3, 2023

South Carolina

November 29, 2023 –
Two Summerville men received one-year-and-one-day prison sentences for selling counterfeit goods. They operated storefronts, selling fake sports jerseys imported from various countries like Hong Kong, China and Germany, knowingly trading in counterfeit merchandise. Both had a prior felony conviction related to counterfeit trafficking. Ronnie Martinez from Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) in Charlotte emphasized combatting trademark counterfeiting to protect consumers and legitimate businesses. U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs highlighted the threat counterfeit goods pose to businesses and consumer safety, stressing their commitment to pursuing such crimes. Both men face prison time followed by supervised release and substantial restitution payments. Homeland Security Investigations led the case.

Post and Courier – November 29, 2023


October 4, 2023 – A Draper couple faces charges for bootlegging over $1.5 million worth of DVDs, allegedly sold through multiple eBay accounts. Utah’s AG’s CASE Strike Force charged them with second-degree felonies including engaging in unlawful activity, fraud, and money laundering. The man also faces a third-degree felony for obstructing justice by deleting evidence. They sold hundreds of illegally copied movies, like “Ford vs. Ferrari” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” The Motion Picture Association’s Content Protection Operations Department assisted in the investigation. A search at their Draper home uncovered 2,800 prepackaged DVDs and invoices from Chinese distributors.

Gephardt Daily – Tim Gurrister – October 4, 2023

Hong Kong

November 14, 2023 – In Sha Tin, Hong Kong Customs seized 360 suspected counterfeit items, approximating a market value of $660,000. The operation stemmed from tips about a boutique selling fake clothing and accessories. After a thorough probe and collaboration with trademark owners, Customs officers conducted a raid, seizing counterfeit clothing, accessories, and handbags. They arrested a 45-year-old woman connected to the case; she’s on bail pending further investigation. According to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, selling or possessing goods with forged trademarks is an offense carrying a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and five years’ imprisonment, reinforcing Customs’ crackdown on counterfeit trade.

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – November 14, 2023

December 18, 2023 – In a 12-day joint operation with Mainland and Macau Customs, Hong Kong Customs seized 14,000 allegedly counterfeit items valued at HK$5.4 million. The collaboration aimed to thwart the transshipment of fake goods between regions, targeting cargo bound for international markets like North America and Europe. The operation targeted handbags, clothing, footwear, and mobile phones. This marked the third joint effort this year, resulting in a total seizure of 51,000 counterfeit items valued at HK$25.5 million by Hong Kong customs. The operation bolstered efforts to combat the illegal flow of counterfeit merchandise crossing borders.

The Standard – December 18, 2023

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