Customs Agents Seize $16 Million of Chinese Counterfeits in Texas

May 24, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018

U.S. customs agents recently seized more than $16 million worth of counterfeit goods in Laredo, Texas, a shipment that originated from China and was possibly smuggled through Mexico, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The fake goods, totaling almost 79,000, included designer clothing, electronic goods, and athletic shoes mimicking Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Adidas, Nike, Apple, and Sony, an ICE press release on May 21 stated.

Special ICE agents conducted the seizure on May 17 after surveilling a public storage facility in Laredo, where people were transferring boxes from a leased storage unit into pickup trucks and vans with Mexican license plates.

Then, a box truck from an air courier arrived to unload the goods into waiting pickup trucks and vans.

The goods were shipped in large boxes from China to an international cargo terminal located in Laredo, according to ICE, addressed to fictitious Laredo recipients and addresses.

ICE added that historically, smugglers exploit U.S. ports of entry by going through Mexico. They pay bribes to Mexican cartels, who in turn extort Mexican law enforcement officials so the goods can pass without inspection or duties.

China is the source for more than 70 percent of the world’s physical trade-related counterfeiting, valued at more than $285 billion, according to a 2016 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Together with counterfeiting from Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city, China accounts for 86 percent of global counterfeiting, amounting to $396.5 billion.

Fake goods are no small part of the country’s economy: they make up 12.5 percent of China’s total exports and over 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product, some estimates say. According to a report by the IP (Intellectual Property) Commission, a U.S. organization, about $58 billion worth of counterfeit goods entered the U.S. market in 2015.

China undoubtedly is the origin country of much of that. A special report on IP theft released by the U.S. Trade Representative in April—which named China as a primary perpetrator of IP theft—found that Mexico was one of the United States’ major trading partners that did not have adequate border enforcement against counterfeit goods.

In December 2017, a father and his two sons were arrested in Long Island, New York for purchasing fake goods from China and reselling them to vendors around the country—worth $25 million.

They purchased fake Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex goods.

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