US customs sees big spike in fakes seized in Puerto Rico

Seizures of counterfeit goods in the Puerto Rico have risen around 300 per cent in the first six months of this fiscal year, says US customs.

The San Juan field operations unit of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that around $20m-worth of counterfeit merchandise was seized during the period, with most of the illegal material entering the Caribbean island via international mail or courier.

At the moment it is not clear if the increase is resulting from an increase in enforcement activity by the authorities, a hike in counterfeit trade, or a combination of the two. However, earlier this year US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and CBP launched the San Juan Trade Enforcement Coordination Center (TECC) – the 10th of its kind in the US, to identify, inspect and investigate foreign trade suspected of being fraudulently introduced into the market.

Last year, CBP's Operation Silver Snake netted $1.5m-worth of consumer products, apparel, footwear, textiles and pharmaceuticals – amongst other items – which were mainly manufactured in China. And earlier this year the San Juan unit intercepted two shipments of cheap copies of luxury watches – including Cartier, Patek Phillipe, Hublot and Audermar Piguet – worth $2.6m as well as 40,000 fake condoms.

"We urge the people of Puerto Rico, do not purchase counterfeit products," said Edward Ryan, assistant director of trade for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. "While you may believe you are getting a similar product, at a discounted price, you are certainly not. These products are often hazardous, manufactured with toxic materials and harmful chemicals, and are bad for your health."

In the past, seized counterfeits have been found to contain hazardous substances including cyanide, arsenic, mercury, lead, urine and rat droppings.

Mobile phone accessories

Meanwhile, CBP officers in South Carolina intercepted thousands of counterfeit mobile phone cases, chargers, cables and headphones at the port in Charleston, valued at $1.1m.

Around 85,000 fake items that infringed on trademarks rights of Apple, LG, Marvel, DC Comics, Hello Kitty and Dr. Dre were uncovered in the operation. Representatives from these companies confirmed their images and markings were being used without their permission, making them counterfeit and subject to seizure.

In addition, 38,000 power adapters were discovered bearing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mark, signifying they’d been tested in an accredited FCC laboratory and met certain operating standards. These were found to be unauthorized markings as well – a potentially significant safety risk to unwitting consumers.

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