Fake sports merchandise is big business. Dealing in counterfeit clothes or other goods can also lead to stiff penalties.
In a recent operation, the Houston Police Department seized about $500,000 in fake sports merchandise last year.
Five people were arrested, reported the Houston Chronicle. Several more were detained and the operation led to the disruption of at least eight illegal business operations, police say.
The department’s investigation was part of joint effort known as Operation Team Player. Three agencies were involved in this probe – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.
All major sports leagues were targeted in the operation centered on Houston. As well as the Houston Police Department’s operation, federal agents, and the NFL reported the seizure of in excess of $20 million in fake sports goods since the start of 2016.
More than 50 people have been arrested nationwide in the operation. As well as apparel, the counterfeiting operation extends to tickets. Undercover officers patrolled the streets near Houston’s NRG stadium to pick up people selling counterfeit NFL merchandise or tickets in recent weeks.
Michael Buchwald, NFL senior counsel, said while fake tickets have become more sophisticated, they won’t get fans into a stadium on game day.
The Department of Homeland Security says money generated by the alleged counterfeit merchandise operation often funds other criminal activities. Drug and human trafficking are among the crimes cited.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime points out many of the networks used by counterfeiters replicate those used by human traffickers and there is synergy between the two crimes. It states in a recent report.
“The illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods is often linked to other serious crimes. Europol has warned that counterfeiting is an increasingly attractive avenue for organized crime to ‘diversify their product range’ Evidence suggests that criminal networks use similar routes and modus operandi to move counterfeit goods as they do to smuggle drugs, firearms and people.”
Houston police say there are many counterfeit scams in the city and it goes beyond sporting goods. Items seized in the city in recent years include:
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Car parts
- Toys and hoverboards.
Organized crimes like counterfeiting are taken very seriously by the authorities. Contact our Texas criminal defense lawyers if you have been charged with a crime of this nature.