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Operation Holiday Hoax Seizes $76 Million in Counterfeit Holiday Goods

Feds seize toys, clothing and Christmas lights.


Federal officials in cities across the United States confiscated more than 327,000 counterfeit holiday items worth approximately $76 million, just days before Christmas, the Associated Press reported.

Fake products included Angry Birds toys, True Religion jeans, NFL jerseys, cell phones, handbags, DVDs, and perfume, all top sellers during the holiday season. Even Christmas lights and batteries were included in the bust, and counterfeiters went as far as copying the Underwriters Laboratories trademark, which people associate with safe products, The New York Times reported.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency seized the items in South Florida, Washington and other states after a six-week, multi-agency investigation called Operation Holiday Hoax II, the AP reported. The investigation focused on flea markets involved in importing, distributing or selling fake or pirated products in 66 American cities.

The investigation led officials to Seoul, South Korea and 55 cities in Mexico.

"This year's success during Operation Holiday Hoax was as a result of the close partnership with the governments of Mexico and South Korea," ICE Director John Morton said in the statement, the AFP reported. "Together, we've dealt a significant blow to counterfeiters worldwide while making a positive impact on American jobs here at home."

Along with the confiscated goods, 33 people were arrested, 30 of them in the US and three in South Korea. They were all charged with counterfeit-goods trafficking, The Times reported.

“People tend to focus on luxury goods and DVDs, and that really understates the problem,” Morton said, The Times reported. “We live in an age where literally everything, from medicine to air bags to circuit boards, are being counterfeited.”

A good way to tell if you’re buying a counterfeit item is to check the packaging and instructions for misspellings and bad grammar. Also, obvious poor quality of the item, such as uneven stitching, is a good sign too, The Times reported.