U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a massive, record-breaking seizure of counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise in Miami on Thursday, worth an estimated $123 million were it authentic.
Agents and officers targeted flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV. Among the seizures were jewelry, hats, phones, fake jerseys and thousands of other items.
The 176,000 counterfeit items were seized during the joint-agency mission, named "Operation Team Player," which targeted international fraud, according to an ICE press release.
The Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI's) Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center developed the plan and unveiled the results at a news conference alongside the National Football League (NFL), CBP and the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD).
“Every day, cargo containers containing billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods enter the United States through its land, sea and airports of entry. This year’s record-breaking ‘Operation Team Player’ results affirm HSI’s commitment to protecting American consumers, the economy, and legitimate business, by ensuring Super Bowl 54 is not compromised by transnational criminal networks exploiting fan enthusiasm for illicit profits. Sports fans from around the world, who’ve spent their hard-earned money to support their favorite NFL team, deserve to receive genuine, high-quality officially licensed merchandise in return,” said IPR Center Director Steve Francis.
NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella championed the seizure and claimed the operation will protect fans from being duped.
“'Operation Team Player' remains one of the most important national initiatives for protecting sports fans from the sale of counterfeit products and counterfeit tickets," she said. "The joint efforts of the NFL, the IPR Center, HSI, CBP, and Miami area law enforcement have helped ensure that Super Bowl LIV remains an authentic and outstanding experience for our fans."
MDPD Maj. Eric Garcia said fans deserve to know what they are buying and should expect law enforcement to step in and shield them from being defrauded.
“When fans spend their hard-earned money on NFL tickets and merchandise, they deserve the real deal,” he said. “The Miami-Dade Police Department is fully committed to collaborating and partnering with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to proactively enforce laws related to counterfeit merchandise in order to protect businesses and consumers.”