A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Customs officials in Erlanger seize counterfeit watches worth more than $8.8M if they were authentic

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Counterfeit watches that would have been worth more than $8.8 million if they were authentic were seized by Customs and Border Patrol officers at their Port of Cincinnati office located in Erlanger.

The 11 counterfeit Richard Millie watches originated from Hong Kong and were destined to an individual in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This seizure is part of CBP’s ongoing initiative aimed at protecting U.S. businesses and consumers from unfair Chinese trade practices, known as Operation Mega Flex. This operation has yielded more than 4,200 seizures of illicit goods and 2,400 agricultural violations over the past 15 months.

The seized watches (U.S. Customs photo)

Officers seized the three shipments, then contacted the agency’s centers of excellence, to determine whether the watches were counterfeit. They determined that they were indeed fake and that if the watches had been genuine would have been worth more than $8.8 million.

“The theft of intellectual property and the trade-in substandard, and often dangerous, goods threatens America’s innovation, economy and consumer health and safety, and it generates proceeds that fund criminal activities and organized crime,” said Richard Gillespie, port director-Cincinnati. “Intellectual property rights enforcement is a Customs and Border Protection priority trade issue, and a mission that we take seriously.”

CBP has established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers that are often associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods. For more information about the Truth Behind Counterfeits public awareness campaign, you can go online here. 

In Fiscal Year 2019, CBP and their partner agency Homeland Security Investigation seized 27,599 shipments containing intellectual property rights violations, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of over $1.5 billion, had the goods been genuine. Watches and jewelry represent 15 percent of all such seizures and continue to top the list of all seized intellectual property rights materials.

Meanwhile, it was announced that in the last 12 months, CBP officers in Louisville have, on a nightly basis, seized counterfeit goods ranging from sunglasses to wallets and from handbags to clothing. During fiscal year 2020, which was October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020, saw CBP officers in Louisville intercept more than $109 million worth of various counterfeit goods.

Most of these counterfeits came from overseas locations, as criminals try to rip-off consumers by selling substandard items at top dollar prices. Of the 741 counterfeit seizures made, 343 shipments, 46%, came from Hong Kong with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just over $79 million. In second place was China with 280 seizures and an MSRP of $13.7 million.

Some of the items that made the seized list were jewelry, footwear, bags/wallets and electronics. The most seized item was clothing, 172 seizures. If the clothing was real, the MSRP would have been $17.9 million, however, the most expensive items seized were watches. Only 35 seizures were watches with an MSRP of $36.1 million.

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons and other restricted or prohibited products.

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