Criminal Research Specialists Open The Door On Multiple Counterfeit Cases

WASHINGTON – Tenacious, relentless, and determined to deliver results are but a few of the ways to describe the work of Criminal Research Specialists (CRS) who work behind the scenes using research methods and procedures to collect and analyze crime data for use in developing potential criminal investigations.

The specialists at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) collaborate with a network of researchers assigned to Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) field offices around the country to sift through information collected and stored in multiple databases that often leads to patterns of criminal activity commonly associated with violations of intellectual property rights and trade law violations.

Working cooperatively with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the FBI, and multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the researchers are supported by their counterparts at the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA). This Pittsburgh-based nonprofit partnership is where HSI special agents assigned to the IPR Center work side-by-side with representatives from private industry, government, and academia to identify, mitigate, and disrupt cybercrime.

There is a measure of success among multiple leads that have been developed by researchers and analysts at the IPR Center and coordinated with field offices. Many of the cases that have been developed remain active and awaiting further law enforcement actions which limits the amount of information that can be released on them, however, here are highlights of some recent cases that demonstrate the critical role these CRS teams play in support of HSI’s overall mission:

  • $21 million worth of counterfeit merchandise was seized in Connecticut with the arrest of three individuals for trafficking in and conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods or services. The investigation also revealed alleged money laundering.

  • More than 1,000 counterfeit items valued at more than $1 million were seized in Kentucky with the arrest of two individuals for violations of state intellectual property and counterfeiting laws.

  • An IPR Center CRS linked a series of counterfeit Viagra seizures to multiple discoveries of suspected sildenafil and tadalafil, controlled substance manufacturing devices, suspected methamphetamine, and thousands in cash. The lead also led to four federal seizure warrants at various financial institutions involving bank accounts, cryptocurrency, stocks, and a web domain.

  • HSI special agents in Florida were able to shut down a popular website after serving a federal seizure warrant on the domain registry for the website, redirecting visitors to the website to servers displaying a notice that the domain was seized.

An investigation that began with a lead developed by a CRS at the IPR Center resulted in a full-blown investigation by HSI personnel in Dallas, Texas, that eventually led to the seizure of more than $1 million worth of counterfeit goods. The investigation was supported by the NCFTA.

This great teamwork ended when HSI-Dallas special agents conducted a search of a Dallas area residence, seizing nearly 6,000 counterfeit items that – if genuine – had a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of more than $1.3 million.

Although the original lead referenced large quantities of counterfeit Bayer Seresto dog and cat flea and tick collars from China, special agents also discovered other counterfeit merchandise bearing trademarks that included Disney and Marvel DVD movies, Yeti tumblers, Gucci and Louis Vuitton watch bands, and Adidas Yeezy Boost sneakers.

The IPR Center logs some 30,000 leads in an average year that are matched against NCFTA databases stocked with more than 20 years of information from multiple sources that have been encountered by NCFTA industry partners. All leads remain indexed in this same database for reference and possible use in future investigations.