In a month-long “enforcement surge” to crack down on illegal merchandise during the NBA finals, Immigration and Customs and Enforcement agents seized $28,000 worth of counterfeit NBA goods in the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to ICE, the items seized by special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) during the month-long operation included t-shirts, caps, team flags, and decals with counterfeit branding.
The amount of merchandise seized during this year’s NBA finals pales in comparison to last year’s yield of $375,000 because, according to the agency, the “heavy presence of HSI special agents” fueled buzz in counterfeiter circles and helped to tamp down on illegal activity.
ICE says counterfeiting is “not a victimless crime,” each year businesses across the globe lose an estimated $600 to $700 billion due to the practice. And while this year’s NBA finals seizures appear smaller than other events, last year, according to ICE, federal enforcement agencies seized more than $1.3 billion worth of counterfeit items.
ICE’s month-long counterfeiting-bust comes as the agency remains under fire for perceived gaps in immigration enforcement. The complaints, largely from Republican lawmakers, have centered on the agency’s declining deportation levels and multiple failures to remove criminal aliens who have gone on to commit additional crimes.
Ironically perhaps, the month-long counterfeiting operation took place in and around the sanctuary city of San Francisco, where 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was murdered by a multiple deportee criminal alien with a lengthy rap sheet. Her murder, and other that have followed, have contributed to immigration hawks’ frustration with immigration enforcement under President Barack Obama.
David Prince, assistance special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco, assured that the focus on NBA counterfeiting helps to combat more seedy criminal elements.
“Counterfeiters may seem harmless on the surface, but they are often feeding cash into an elaborate system of organized crime that includes illegal narcotics operations, human trafficking, and even terrorism,” Prince said in a statement.
The operation in San Francisco was part of an ongoing HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) effort known as Operation Team Player, focused on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports merchandise.
“Copyright infringement is not a victimless crime and denying these criminals a payday weakens their ability to operate the transnational criminal organizations they represent,” ICE added in a release.