INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 04: Merchandise for sale is seen at the at the Super Bowl XLVI NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center on February 4, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The New England Patriots will play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, 2011 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced that the agency had seized more than $13.6 million in fake NFL merchandise during a nationwide law enforcement initiative called “Operation Red Zone.”
Starting in September, the initiative targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise as it entered the United States.
Warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets were targeted around the country. Law enforcement agents have also shut down more than 300 websites selling counterfeit goods.
Among the items being counterfeit were jerseys, hats and other souvenirs entering the U.S. and then sold by stores, flea markets and street vendors.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and state and local police departments around the country partnered with the National Football League and other professional sports organizations.
"The Super Bowl is one of the nation's most exciting events. Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand," said Morton. "The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans and fuels crime overseas. No good comes of counterfeiting American products — whether NFL jerseys, airbags, or pharmaceuticals — and we must go after the criminals behind it."
With three days left before Super Bowl XLVII, these teams have already seized more than 160,000 counterfeit items with a total take of more than $13.6 million.
The operation will continue through February 6th.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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