MEMPHIS, Tennessee — U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs) in Memphis, working from information provided by the Gwinnett County Police Department in Georgia, seized two shipments of various counterfeit luxury goods, including Louis Vuitton totes and purses. While the goods in these two seizures totaled $1,066,207 if they had been real (MSRP), they led local investigators to a couple’s illegitimate counterfeit goods business and an inventory worth $15,896,061 MSRP.
CBPOS in Memphis selected for examination the two shipments that arrived September 28, 2021, en route from the Mexican state of Chihuahua to a residence in Lawrenceville, GA. They found 19 Rolex Submariner Watches, 15 Rolex Yacht Master Watches, 10 Rolex Sky Dweller Watches, 10 Rolex Date Just Watches, 3 Rolex Daytona Watches, 2 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watches, 5 Chanel Sunglasses, 2 Versace Sunglasses, and 1 Louis Vuitton Duffel Bag. The second shipment contained 20 Louis Vuitton tote bags. The items were turned over to Homeland Security Investigations, who continued their coordinated efforts with Gwinnett County.
“Counterfeit goods are poor quality products that cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year while robbing our country of jobs and tax revenues,” said Michael Neipert, Memphis Area Port Director. “According to the arrested sellers, their customers knew they were buying counterfeits, which is maddening. Why would you want to walk around with a fake $18 Louis Vuitton tote, $1,522 cheaper than an original. That’s uncouth. It diminishes the original product.”
On Thursday, November 18, 2021, Gwinnett Police Department Special Investigation Section Vice Unit seized over 9,000 counterfeit merchandise items valued at over $15,800,000.00 from a business named Real Moda in Lawrenceville, Ga.
An investigation on the sale of luxury goods bearing counterfeit trademarks was started in September 2021 with the assistance of the United States Customs and Border Protection and ICE HSI. As a result, a 31-year-old female from Lawrenceville, GA and a 33-year-old male from Lawrenceville, GA were charged with Possession and Sale of Goods Bearing a Counterfeit Trademark and are out on bond.
The three-month investigation led the officers to a vast number of counterfeit items and several items of evidentiary value. The items were stored in multiple locations, including Real Moda, and advertised for sale on Facebook. Luxury goods were sold such as fake Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci handbags, Rolex watches, Chanel and Versace sunglasses.
Illicit manufacturers continue to exploit the rapid growth of e-commerce to sell counterfeit goods to unsuspecting consumers in the United States. In FY2021, CBP processed approximately $2.8 trillion of imports, an increase of nearly 17 percent compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2020. Overall, CBP collected approximately $93.8 billion in duties, taxes, and other fees on behalf of the U.S. government in FY2021, representing a 133% increase over a five-year period. CBP has also seized more than 83,000 shipments for trade violations in the current fiscal year.
CBP data indicates that handbags, wallets, apparel, footwear, watches, jewelry, and consumer electronics are at higher risk of being counterfeited. Counterfeit watches and jewelry make up almost half of the total MSRP of seized goods. Counterfeit versions of popular brands are regularly sold in online marketplaces and flea markets. Counterfeit goods hurt the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety, and fund criminal activity. Visit the National IPR Coordination Center for more information about IPR including counterfeiting and piracy.
Consumers can take simple steps to protect themselves and their families from counterfeit goods:
- Purchase goods directly from the trademark holder or from authorized retailers.
- When shopping online, read seller reviews and check for a working U.S. phone number and an address that can be used to contact the seller.
- Review CBP’s E-Commerce Counterfeit Awareness Guide for Consumers.
- Remember that if the price of a product seems too good to be true, it probably is.
To report suspected counterfeits, visit CBP’s online e-Allegations portal or call 1-800-BE-ALERT. More information about counterfeit goods is available on CBP’s Fake Goods, Real Dangers website and StopFakes.gov.