Authorities seize $540K in phony athletic goods

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal agents and other law enforcement groups seized more than $540,000 in counterfeit Major League Baseball merchandise over two weeks leading up to this year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday the joint operation, led by its Homeland Security Investigations unit, targeted Internet sellers, street vendors and stores offering fake, game-related sportswear.

ICE said the 14-day effort in the Kansas City metropolitan area resulted in the seizure of 13,023 phony items, including apparel, fake tickets and memorabilia. Nearly 20 percent were from other sports leagues, such as the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.

Authorities said they closed a Lenexa, Kan., warehouse believed to be responsible for distributing the majority of all counterfeit hats sold in the Kansas City area.

“Selling counterfeit goods is stealing,” said Gilbert Trill, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Kansas City. “Counterfeit goods steal U.S. jobs, create inferior and sometimes dangerous products, and support criminal organizations.”

ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said no arrests have been made, but that doesn’t mean charges won’t be filed later.

“Essentially the way these operations typically work, items and goods seized after being identified as counterfeit go through a legal process to confirm that,” he said.

If enough evidence exists that crimes have been committed, information would be turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office for possible prosecution, Neudauer said.

He said the All-Star game was the impetus for the operation, which was similar to others conducted in connection with such large sporting events.

Much of the seized merchandise will be destroyed, Neudauer said, though in the past, some clothing items also have been donated to children in Haiti and other places where U.S. trademarks aren’t valid.

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