LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Online shopping has exploded during the pandemic. Federal officials say there is so much money to be made that organized crime is getting involved.
13 Action News was recently granted exclusive access to a secure facility to see officials blocking criminals from selling their wares to Nevada residents and US buyers
INCREASING OF COUNTERFEITING
“Every year we continue to see an increase in counterfeit goods,” said Laura Tapia, Department Chief of US Customs and Border Protection.
She says it’s bad, really bad.
“In the last year, we’ve seen a 700 percent increase in counterfeit goods entering the United States,” says Tapia.
Before anyone tries to smuggle something into Nevada or elsewhere, many counterfeit goods begin their journey here at the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport, according to Tapia.
“About 80 percent of incoming cargo comes from Southeast Asia. We are at the gateway to the Pacific Rim,” says Tapia.
From here their officers take cargo to be searched at this secret facility. 13 Action News was granted a rare glimpse.
“Once the containers arrive at this facility, 100 percent of the goods are inspected,” says Officer Angel Villagrana.
DETECT COUNTERFEIT GOODS
He says staff are constantly working with business experts to help them spot counterfeit goods.
“We also train with the brand owners and our import specialists… We collect samples, we send them photos and we help each other,” says Villagrana.
According to Homeland Security, counterfeit goods pose a significant health and safety risk and impair the economic growth of legitimate businesses. But Tapia says that’s not all.
“A large part of it finances criminal organizations. The person wearing a fake Louis Vuitton or fake tennis shoes probably doesn’t really think about contributing to criminal activities,” says Tapia.
And Tapia says crooks make millions.
“If there’s a profit to be made, most likely someone will fake it,” says Tapia.
A good example are these Nike Jordans.
“We’ve had cases where a product hasn’t even hit the market yet. But we see the product, the counterfeit goods, coming into the US,” says Tapia.
In fact, so much goods arrives at US ports that crooks don’t even bother to hide their counterfeit goods.
“It’s more convenient for counterfeiters to just throw them in a box and mix them up with a legitimate shipment,” says Tapia.
But persistence pays off. In a recent raid, officers seized more than 47,000 counterfeit Cialis pills and 10,000 counterfeit designer items.
If sold, it would have had the potential to fetch nearly $13 million. Tapia admits that the villains just keep getting better at what they do.
“This was fake Viagra. Pfizer is the manufacturer. So you have the Pfizer brand and also the diamond-shaped blue pill is a registered trademark,” says Tapia.
Tapia says it’s the intricate details that make so much of this fake stuff that keeps officers on their toes.
“The hardest thing is just moving forward, moving with the trends, knowing what’s current, and most of our officers are very good at paying attention to what’s current,” says Tapia.