The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seized more than US$896,000, plus the domain names of seven websites accused of selling counterfeit sports apparel, the two agencies announced Tuesday.
The sellers, based in China, sold counterfeit professional and collegiate sports apparel, primarily counterfeit jerseys, the agencies said ins a news release. The agencies, after making undercover purchases from the sites, received seizure warrants from a magistrate judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The seizure warrants were unsealed on Thursday.
Since June 2010, the two agencies have seized 758 domain names of websites accused of selling counterfeit products, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses and DVD boxed sets. ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations launched Operation In Our Sites, focused on websites selling counterfeit products, in mid-2010.
Several subjects whose domain names had been seized in a November 2010 In Our Sites operation continued to sell counterfeit goods using new domain names, the agencies said. This operation targeted those websites.
The website operators processed payments for the counterfeit goods using PayPal Private Ltd. accounts and then wired their proceeds to bank accounts held at Chinese banks, the agencies said.
Through the warrants, law enforcement agents seized $826,883 that had been transferred from PayPal accounts to bank accounts in China. The funds were seized from interbank accounts held by the Chinese banks in the U.S.
Under additional seizure warrants, law enforcement agents also seized $69,504 in funds remaining in three PayPal accounts used by the website operators.
"We are working hard to protect American businesses and consumers from the damaging effects of intellectual property crime," Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general in the DOJ's Criminal Division, said in a statement. "This investigation disrupted an online counterfeit goods operation and also struck at the heart of the criminal enterprise by seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.