U.S. sacks counterfeiters in massive sting

National Football League's Super Bowl backdrop to government's war against fake merchandise

With the National Football League's Super Bowl extravaganza as a background, the government announced what it called a record breaking $3.6 million sting aimed at counterfeit game-related sportswear sellers.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked with multiple NFL teams and various law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to identify stores and vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items, ICE stated.

With two days left before Super Bowl XLV, government agents have seized 36,273 items of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit wares for a total take of about $3.56 million. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, where the Super Bowl will be played, 10,430 items such as fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets were seized with an estimated value of $554,280, the agency stated.

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ICE special agents seized 10 websites earlier this week that illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games, the agency stated.

According to an LA Times.com article: "Content on popular websites such as Rojadirecta.org, Channelsurfing.net and ATDHE.net was replaced by a note saying that the domain names were seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials through warrants obtained by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. The other sites shut down Monday were HQ-Streams.com, HQ-Streams.net, Firstrow.net, Ilemi.com and Rojadirecta.com."

The Web sites were among the most popular on the Internet for illegally distributing copyrighted sporting events ICE stated. It is estimated that each year, sports leagues and broadcasters lose millions of dollars from illegally distributing copyrighted, live sporting events over the Internet. Such piracy threatens the investment that broadcasters and digital media companies are willing to make to distribute live content, ICE stated.

ICE said its counterfeit busts during the last three Super Bowls have nabbed more than 30,000 items with an estimated value of nearly $2.8 million. Those amounts, coupled with the 2011 record-breaking results of "Operation Interception," ICE HSI has seized more than 66,000 counterfeit items worth $6.36 million over the past four years.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

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