A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

U.S. Customs at Louisville have seized more than $81.5m in counterfeit designer watches in 6 months

Cheap, gaudy, and worthless is how you can characterize the more than 3,200 counterfeit designer watches U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Louisville have seized since October 1 through March.

The 3,229 counterfeit watches bore the names of Rolex, Audemar Piguet, Cartier, Gucci, and the ever-popular Richard Mille trademarked logos. The shipments were mostly from China and were destined for addresses all over the U.S. Had these watches been real the Manufacturer’s Retailed Price would have been north of $81.5 million.

“Legitimate cross-border trade powers the U.S. economy,” said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago Field Office. “As trade grows at unprecedented rates, our officers are working hard to identify threats and shut down illicit suppliers.”

E-Commerce sales have contributed to large volumes of low-value, small packages being imported into the United States. Over 90 percent of all counterfeit seizures occur in the international mail and express environments which are channels that small, e-commerce packages destined for U.S. addresses travel through. Many of these shipments contain counterfeit goods that pose the same health, safety, and economic security risks as large, containerized shipments.  Make sure to shop from reputable sources online. To learn more about CBP’s E-Commerce strategy, visit CBP’s E-Commerce website.

“Consumers should be aware that if a known high-value brand is being offered for an unusually low price, it could very well be fake. CBP encourages the use of reputable vendors for your valuable purchases,” said Thomas Mahn, Port Director-Louisville. “Our officers are dedicated to preventing counterfeiters from defrauding consumers and legitimate businesses.”

Sold in underground outlets and on third-party e-commerce websites, counterfeit commodities fund smugglers, and members of organized crime. Consumers often believe they are buying a genuine product but soon realize the item is substandard and potentially dangerous.

CBP Trade protects the intellectual property rights of American businesses through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights enforcement program, safeguarding them from unfair competition and use for malicious intent while upholding American innovation and ingenuity. Suspected violations can be reported to CBP here.

Nationwide in Fiscal Year 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments containing goods that violated intellectual property rights. The total estimated value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was nearly $1.3 billion. CBP has established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers that are often associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods. Information about the Truth Behind Counterfeits public awareness campaign can be found at https://www.cbp.gov/FakeGoodsRealDangers.

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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