The Department of Justice seized more than $1.5 million in proceeds from the distribution of counterfeit sports apparel and jerseys, following an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods on commercial websites conducted by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), which is led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The developments are the latest result of Operation In Our Sites, a law enforcement initiative targeting online commercial intellectual property crime announced by HSI in June 2010. Operation In Our Sites targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses and DVD boxed sets. To date, 761 domain names of websites used in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works have been seized as a result of Operation In Our Sites.
“ICE will continue to target those who traffic in counterfeit goods by attacking the financial profits of counterfeiting sites and shutting them down,” said ICE Director Morton. “Operation In Our Sites and the tireless work of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center protect consumers from fraud on the Internet and combat intellectual property theft which exacts a toll on our economy and industries.”
Last month, more than $896,000 in proceeds from the sale of counterfeit sports apparel on commercial websites was seized as part of Operation In Our Sites. According to court documents, investigation by federal law enforcement officers revealed that subjects whose domain names had been seized in a November 2010 In Our Sites operation continued to sell counterfeit goods using new domain names. In particular, the individuals, based in China, sold counterfeit professional and collegiate sports apparel, primarily counterfeit sports jerseys. Law enforcement officers made numerous undercover purchases from the websites associated with the new domain names. After the goods were confirmed to be counterfeit or infringing, seizure warrants for three domain names used to sell the infringing goods were obtained from a U.S. magistrate judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The individuals conducted sales and processed payments for the counterfeit goods using money service business accounts and then wired their proceeds to bank accounts held at a Chinese bank, the court documents state.
Pursuant to warrants issued by a U.S. district judge, law enforcement officers seized $1,455,438.72 in proceeds that had been transferred from the money service business accounts to various bank accounts in China. The funds were seized from correspondent, or interbank, accounts held by the Chinese bank in the United States. Pursuant to additional seizure warrants issued by a U.S. magistrate judge, law enforcement officers also seized $94,730.12 in funds remaining in six money service business accounts used by the subjects.
“The seizures … are another step forward in our efforts to disrupt and disable those engaged in intellectual property crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “By seizing the domain names and profits of online counterfeit goods operations, we are protecting consumers and sending a message to criminals that we will use every tool at our disposal to stop them.”
“Within a matter of weeks, this law enforcement operation has seized more than $2.4 million in proceeds from individuals overseas who are preying on the American economy and consumers with their sales of counterfeit goods,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., District of Columbia. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target these unscrupulous operators where it hurts them the most – at the bank.”