Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents Support Super Bowl Public Safety Efforts
Intellectual Property Rights
Each year, Operation Team Player plays a key role at the Super Bowl.
A year-round effort developed by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), its mission is to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and entertainment merchandise.
Throughout the year, personnel supporting Operation Team Player have worked to identify warehouses, stores, flea markets, online marketplaces, and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the United States.
Leading up to last year's game, HSI announced more than 169,000 counterfeit items seized with a MSRP of $45 million
Unfortunately, spikes in counterfeit merchandise – goods that bear a bogus trademark made to look identical to another’s registered trademark – tend to accompany prominent sporting events like the Super Bowl.
The illegal manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods is one of the primary concerns of HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the IPR Center.
Los Angeles offers a unique challenge to the policing of the illicit sale of counterfeit items because of the traffic issues and the sheer size of the city. At 472 square miles in size, with a population of 3.7 million, it is the second largest city in the U.S.
The Port of Los Angeles is the single biggest port in the U.S. Last year, it moved more than 9.3 million 20-foot containers, a large number even by global standards. Located along 43 miles of waterfront 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles encompasses 7,500 acres, including 4,200 acres of land and 3,300 acres of water.
To put it into perspective, the CBP intercepted a shipment from China on Dec. 21, 2021, with counterfeit products worth $30 million at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
The items included handbags, shirts, backpacks, cross-body bags and pants with the fake tags of world-leading designer and clothing brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and YSL, among others.
However, the focus of the policing of counterfeit goods at this year’s game will not be the port itself, HSI’s Lamar Jackson said. “The majority of counterfeit goods that are coming in are coming in through express consignment carrier facilities and international mail facilities. That’s the biggest challenge.”
With Super Bowl Sunday drawing in high rollers flying in on their private jets from all over the world into the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), there is also an increase in human trafficking. Already, there are signs in the terminals at LAX alerting people about what to do if they suspect there is human trafficking around them.
Southern California is already a hot spot for human trafficking, including sex trafficking, due to its coastal location, proximity to international borders, numerous ports and airports, high immigrant population and large economy, which includes industries that attract forced labor.
HSI prioritizes victimization crimes, investigating and arresting those exploiting children, conducting human trafficking, and identifying and rescuing victims of these crimes. HSI will carry out this critical mission in the Los Angeles area throughout Super Bowl week and ensure the people and organizations involved in human trafficking and sexual exploitation networks are held accountable.
HSI personnel will work closely with local, state and federal partners to educate the public and key industries in Los Angeles – such as hospitality, hotels, and transportation – on how to understand and more easily spot the indicators of human trafficking in their communities and help dispel the myths about who can be a victim of this terrible crime.
Check back each day to see how HSI is providing essential public safety measures for the lead up to Super Bowl LVI
With the focus on the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, it is a great time for law enforcement to highlight the problem of human trafficking as well as a good time for law enforcement to come together to rescue victims and arrest traffickers, says Jeremy Scott, an Assistant Special Agent in Charge with HSI Los Angeles. It’s a commercial operation and, unfortunately, traffickers have a service to sell.
During counterfeit merchandise operations at the Super Bowl, HSI special agents survey pop-up shops through surveillance and intelligence to determine if these shops are peddling illicit goods. If a deal is too good to be true, it’s likely counterfeit merchandise.
Homeland Security Investigations targets human trafficking
Victim Assistance Specialist Brenda, of HSI Los Angeles, discusses human trafficking and addresses misconceptions that trafficking is only sexually based. Flores encourages consumers to be informed and know the origin of their merchandise and services. She also highlights some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking.
Victim Assistance Specialist Brenda, of HSI Los Angeles, describes HSI’s victim-centered approach to investigations into crimes of victimization and exploitation, including human trafficking. For operations conducted during the Super Bowl and throughout the year, the Victim Assistance Program will identify victims and connect them to non-governmental organizations for services, such as on-the-spot crisis intervention, mental health services, medical assistance, shelter, clothing, food, job training and more.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) plays an integral role in combatting human trafficking by working with its law enforcement partners to deter, disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks engaged in trafficking activities. It accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, seizing assets and eliminating profit incentives, and working in partnership with non-governmental organizations to protect and assist victims and bring traffickers to justice.
Special agents work closely with the HSI Victim Assistance Program (VAP), a central piece of HSI’s victim-centered approach to investigations into crimes of victimization and exploitation. The VAP responds to victim issues in a wide range of federal crimes, including human trafficking. The VAP provides a critical resource to HSI investigations and criminal prosecutions by ensuring that victims have access to the rights and services to which they are entitled by law, as well as the assistance they need so that they can participate actively and fully in the criminal justice system process.
The DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) advances human trafficking law enforcement operations, protects victims and enhances prevention efforts. The CCHT is the first unified, intercomponent coordination center for countering human trafficking and the importation of goods produced with forced labor. DHS efforts encompass criminal investigations, victim assistance, identifying and reporting human trafficking, external outreach, intelligence and training. By integrating these many functions, the CCHT is enhancing every aspect of DHS’s counter-human trafficking work.
The Blue Campaign, a partner of CCHT, raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice.
In fiscal year 2021, HSI’s human trafficking arrests across the country increased nearly 30%, to 2,360 from 1,746 in the previous year, with 728 victims assisted.
“We shine a light on these dark crimes through the Blue Campaign, our signature public awareness and education effort,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
How You Can Help
The Blue Campaign has free educational resources to educate key industries and the general public on human trafficking indicators. The recognition of human trafficking by others can save a victim’s life and help the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
Suspicious activity can be submitted online, by phone at 866-347-2423 or by contacting your local HSI office.
Buying Super Bowl gear? Shop Smart.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent, former NFL wide receiver and two time National Champion with the University of Miami Randal Hill has a few tips for those tempted to buy counterfeit Super Bowl LVI gear and other fake merchandise.
The bigger picture: HSI focus on transnational investigations during Super Bowl week
HSI Los Angeles Special Agent Brent Rogan says this week during the Super Bowl, HSI will be working the streets monitoring for counterfeit apparel that they can take off the tables and shelves of vendors as well as shutdown some of the stores selling these items, but the real focus is on cutting off the suppliers of these illicit goods by dismantling transnational criminal organizations.
The Dangerous Life of a Counterfeit
The dangers of buying counterfeit products aren’t always obvious. There are economic impacts, legal implications and health and safety risks that are important to know before you buy.
Some of the most dangerous counterfeit products involve automotive parts, electronics, safety equipment, prescription drugs and cosmetics due to the potential threats they present to public safety and public health:
- Counterfeit airbags and their components can cause severe malfunctions ranging from non-deployment, under inflation, over inflation to explosion of metal shrapnel during deployment in a crash.
- Counterfeit lithium-ion laptop batteries pose significant risk of extreme heat, self-igniting and exploding.
- Counterfeit helmets and baby carriers can break.
- Counterfeit prescription drugs may not contain the active ingredient or could lead to accidental overdose.
- Counterfeit cosmetics can cause severe skin reactions.
Each time you buy a counterfeit item, a legitimate company loses revenue and damage is done to their brand reputation. This translates to lost profits and the loss of U.S. jobs over time. What’s more, counterfeit items are often produced illegally and sold at a profit to fund other criminal activities, such as forced labor or human trafficking. This makes the production and trafficking of counterfeit goods a transnational crime, commonly linked to transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). As such, related commercial fraud violations are also investigated by HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BESTs).
How do knockoffs get to the U.S., and where do they come from? Read to learn more.
Operation Team Player Results
Operation Team Player Highlights
Each year, Operation Team Player plays a key role at the Super Bowl. A year-round effort developed by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), its mission is to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and entertainment merchandise.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents Support Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Efforts
HSI Los Angeles Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lamar Jackson says IPR infringement is a world-wide problem that accounts for 2% to 4% of global trade and is more lucrative than human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In the Los Angeles area, there is a substantial amount of gang activity. In some instances, the gangs may control an area and vendors selling goods there pay taxes to the gangs, who then, in turn, use those proceeds for illicit activities such as drug trafficking or buying illegal firearms. If you are buying from these vendors, you may be helping facilitate gang activity.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lamar Jackson
Where did these counterfeit products come from and what are the proceeds from the sale used for, are the questions HSI Los Angeles acting Deputy Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Reyes faces when investigating the possible sale of illicit goods. A recent investigation by HSI Los Angeles found gang members were trading counterfeit purses for guns; and a designated terrorist organization was being funded by counterfeit merchandise.
Acting Deputy Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Reyes
When football fans from around the world descend upon Los Angeles this week to enjoy Super Bowl LVI and the festivities surrounding the big game, ICE HSI personnel will be hard at work keeping the public safe from terrorist threats, economic fraud, transnational crime and a host of other criminal activities.
HSI will also be supporting our federal partners and local law enforcement to ensure the game is a safe and secure event for everyone who is attending.
#HSIatSB56: IPR Operations
One of HSI’s key targets is the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Its key weapon in doing so is the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), which brings together 28 key federal and international law enforcement agencies, industry partners and academia in a task force to combat intellectual property and commercial fraud crimes.
Unfortunately, spikes in the sale of counterfeit merchandise – goods that bear a trademark made to look identical to another’s registered trademark – tend to accompany prominent sporting events like the Super Bowl.
IPR Center’s Operation Team Player is a year-round mission focused on cracking down on the illegal importation and sale of counterfeit related sports merchandise, memorabilia and apparel. Throughout the year, Operation Team Player works to identify importers, shippers, warehouses, stores, flea markets, sellers on online marketplaces, and street vendors peddling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the country. The IPR Center also coordinates efforts with many of the United States’ major sporting leagues to target contraband.
According to the IPR Center’s acting Director Ricardo Mayoral, Operation Team Player is one of our biggest anti-counterfeiting initiatives.
“While the security efforts surrounding the Super Bowl get the most attention, the team at the IPR Center works with the NFL throughout the year to identify and seize shipments of counterfeit goods coming into the country from abroad,” Mayoral said. “Our goal is to build successful criminal investigations targeting the most egregious violators. Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. Rights holders trademarks are violated. Small businesses that purchase expensive vendor licenses to sell authentic merchandise lose their revenue. And consumers, duped by the counterfeiters, spend their hard-earned money on substandard quality items and, most importantly, unnecessarily open themselves up to financial schemes."
For more information and to report violations of intellectual property rights, including counterfeiting, contact the National IPR Coordination Center: www.iprcenter.gov
Welcome to LA! HSI Los Angeles Acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang discusses how HSI is helping to address criminal threats the public, the National Football League, and the city of Inglewood may face leading up to and throughout Super Bowl LVI week, between Feb. 6-13. #HSIatSB56
As the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams gear up for the big game, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partners are coordinating to ensure Super Bowl LVI is a safe and secure event.
HSI is working with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to provide essential public safety measures in and around the Los Angeles area. Measures include, but are not limited to, investigating human trafficking and intellectual property rights violations. The goal is to help address criminal threats the public, the National Football League, and the city of Inglewood may face leading up to and throughout Super Bowl LVI week, between Feb. 6-13.