On the heels of our post concerning luxury jean designer True Religion's anti-counterfeiting strategy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
announced that its Homeland Security Investigations unit seized over $47 million in counterfeit merchandise at the Patapsco Flea Market in Baltimore, Maryland. Counterfeit items were discovered bearing prominent brand names such as Louis Vuitton, National Football League, Gucci, Coach, Lacoste, Tiffany & Co., UGG, Sony and Under Armour.
The raid occurred April 22nd and was reportedly the result of an "ongoing criminal investigation" that had been underway for several years. The press release reports that "special agents, with assistance from law enforcement and industry partners, seized nearly 220,000 counterfeit items including clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, DVDs, CDs, perfume, make-up and other personal care items" that would have carried a "suggested retail price" of $47.3 million had the items been legitimate. As a result of the operation, ICE seized $1.5 million in alleged criminal profits.
One of the more notable aspects of the operation is the level of cooperation between federal agencies, local law enforcement and industry partners. ICE announced that a number of entities were involved in the operation, including the Maryland State Police, Baltimore Police Department, Under Armour and Estee Lauder, among others. In previous articles, we have urged brand owners to develop sound and effective anti-counterfeiting strategies by, among other things, working closely with federal and state authorities to detect, investigate and, ultimately, prosecute counterfeiters civilly and criminally. ICE's enforcement action demonstrates the potential benefits of industry and government coordination, i.e., the discovery of substantial counterfeit operations and the seizure of alleged criminal proceeds.