A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Not-so-real deal: Counterfeit goods worth $95m seized in Louisville in last 88 days — Buyers Beware!


By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

As the holiday shopping season approaches, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says, “buyer beware,” and is warning consumers to be aware of counterfeit goods.

As an idea of the scope of the problem, during an 88-day period, from Sept. 1 to Nov. 27, CBP officers in Louisville seized 164 shipments containing counterfeit goods worth more than $95 million, a 75% increase from this same time period last year.


Items seized include counterfeit designer bags, jewelry, shoes sunglasses and much more. The products, if authentic, would have a manufacturer suggested retail price of over $95,600,000, or roughly $582,000 per shipment.


During this holiday season CBP says the threat is not going away. During these seizures, CBP officers work with CBP’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Centers for Excellence and Expertise, the agency’s trade experts, to verify through the trademark holder that the products are counterfeit.


CBP says they protect businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights, or IPR, enforcement program, because importation of counterfeit merchandise can cause significant revenue loss and damage the U.S. economy.

Counterfeit items like these from clockwise top: Chanel, Gucci watches, Chanel bracelet and Rolex watches were among $95 million worth of counterfeit items seized by the Custom and Border Protection in Louisville over the past 88 days. (Custom and Border Protection photos)


“Driven by the rise in E-commerce, the market for counterfeit goods in the United States has shifted in recent years from one in which consumers often knowingly purchased counterfeits to one in which counterfeiters try to deceive consumers into buying goods they believe are authentic,” said Thomas Mahn, Louisville Port Director.

“Oftentimes the counterfeits are priced competitively just below a genuine product to avoid scrutiny by the consumer.  The consumers are unaware that they’re buying a dangerous product as the Counterfeit is just that good.”


According to Mahn, profits from counterfeiting sales have been linked to funding organized crime, drug trafficking, and have been linked to terrorist organizations, and also threaten the health and safety of the American people.


“These counterfeits are often compromised of toxic substances such as lead, methanol, antifreeze, urine, arsenic, mercury, and cancer-causing substances,” he said. “Counterfeiters have no moral compass and will counterfeit just about anything to make a buck. We often encounter counterfeit makeup, perfumes, toys, clothing, electronics, machinery parts, basically, anything in demand we’ve seen it. The movement of these goods into online marketplaces pose a significant risk to the American consumer.” 


On a typical day in 2018, CBP officers seized $3.7 million worth of products with IPR violations.  As a result of their enforcement efforts, ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested 381 individuals, obtained 296 indictments, and received 260 convictions related to intellectual property crimes in 2018.


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