Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit products were seized in federal raids in north suburban Waukegan and northwest Indiana as part of a joint operation targeting counterfeiters nationwide and in Mexico.
The raids were conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement authorities and the Mexican government, and led to the seizure of millions of dollars worth of counterfeit products, according to a release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Operation Holiday Hoax consisted of a week of joint law enforcement activities targeting counterfeiters and trademark pirates, their distributors, associates, shippers, warehouses, salesmen and vendors across both nations.
In total, more than 708,250 products were seized in 41 locations in the United States, with seven people arrested and charged in New York and Texas. The raids targeted small businesses, stores, swap meets, flea markets, shippers and vendors involved in the distribution of counterfeit products.
Items seized included counterfeit Christmas ornaments, toys, DVDs, CDs, clothing, footwear, handbags, sports clothing, perfume, cosmetics, hygiene products, electronics, phones and pharmaceuticals, the release said. Early estimates put the combined manufacturer’s retail value at $26 million.
Locally, federal agents seized more than 3,000 imposter designer items, including clothing, handbags, wallets, shoes, jewelry, pharmaceuticals and accessories bearing trademark names such as Tiffany, Ed Hardy, True Religion, Chanel, Coach, Gucci, Nike and Ralph Lauren.
They were seized from the Chicago Foreign Mail Facility and businesses in Waukegan and Lake Station, Ind., the release said. Because no charges had been filed as of Monday afternoon, ICE is not releasing the name of the businesses.
If the items had sold at the MSRP of the genuine merchandise, the estimated value is $325,000, the release said.
"The victims here are U.S. industries and legitimate trademark holders. They are American workers who are cheated out of their legitimate wages and often times we find that the illicit proceeds from this kind of criminal activity goes to feed other organized crime," said Gail Montenegro, ICE's greater Chicago spokeswoman.