ORLANDO, Fla. — Counterfeit goods from overseas are flooding the United States and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are on the front lines battling it.
Action 9 recently got an up close look at the operation at the Port of Miami as the agents sorted through packages and boxes that had been shipped in.
As they ripped open the packaging, the agents removed Rolex watches, Prada purses and all kinds of other high end merchandise. But as real as some of the merchandise looks, much of it is fake.
Agent Alain Rodriguez is part of the team that works to spot these intellectual property rights violations.
“It is super hard. That’s why we have officers and specialists. They actually do the assessment to make sure it’s actually something that is a copy and not a real thing,” Rodriguez said.
In fiscal year 2021, the CBP seized more than 100,000 packages with intellectual property rights violations. Had the merchandise been real, it would have been worth more than $3 billion.
Deleana Harrell, of Brevard County, has been collecting Louis Vuitton purses for more than 25 years.
She showed Action 9 consumer investigator Jeff Deal some of her collection and explained the special markings and where each one was made.
It wasn’t until recently that she learned one of the purses she purchased online from a secondhand marketplace was a knock off.
“And normally, I can spot a fake. I mean, they’re pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for,” Harrell explained.
Consumer watchdog Teresa Murray with the Public Interest Research Group said the impact of this kind of illegal activity is huge. Often the products are low quality and they can cause injuries or illness.
Murray told Action 9, “If you’re buying a counterfeit product, you don’t know this. You can’t see lead. You don’t know that your electrical product that you bought has a problem until it causes a fire.”
Federal agents believe purchasing counterfeit goods often supports criminal activities, such as forced labor or human trafficking. It has even been known to fund terrorist groups. That’s why they encourage people not to buy knock offs and it’s why they continue to sort through the packages and boxes that come into the U.S. every day.
Deleana Harrell is glad they are doing it.
“I think it’s very necessary. I mean, that company or whatever is losing money,” she said.
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