Feds Seize Over $17 Million in Fake NFL Merchandise


(Photo Credit: MGN Online)

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By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) — Score one for the feds.

An investigation encompassing everything from fake NFL game jerseys to counterfeit Super Bowl tickets ended with more than $17 million worth of items seized and 41 people arrested, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The federal agency began its probe — which it dubbed “Operation Red Zone,” the latter term referring to area between the 20-yard line and goal line for a football team’s offense — on September 1, 2012, and wrapped it up on February 6.

ICE special agents, U.S. Postal Inspection Service members, and state and local police officers nationwide conducted the investigation, in conjunction with the NFL and other top sports leagues.

They targeted international shipments of merchandise, while also focusing on places where such items might be stored or sold such as warehouses, stores, flea markets, street vendors and online vendors.

By the time they were done, authorities had seized $17.3 million in fake jerseys, hats, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs, ICE said.

Plus, federal agents shut down 313 websites on which counterfeit merchandise was hawked. “The seized websites are now in the custody of the federal government,” according to the ICE press release.

The effort — which included the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center — also looked at counterfeit tickets, specifically for the NFL’s championship game. This led to the confiscation of 168 tickets valued at more than $154,000.

CNN’s Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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