By: Spencer Soper and Scott Soshnick
February 2nd 2017
On Thursday, law enforcement officials will unveil piles of counterfeit jerseys, baseball caps, jackets and other sports merchandise seized in the previous year from online vendors, flea markets and stadium parking lots. Operation Team Player, timed for Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, makes for good TV and is designed to publicize the growing prevalence of fakes.
It's a problem that's getting worse and harder to control.
Last year, the U.S. government seized $1.38 billion in counterfeit goods. More than half of that arrived via express courier and international mail. Why? Because fakes increasingly are being bought online-largely at Amazon.com and EBay - and often shipped direct to Americans' homes in individual packages.
As a result, officials must find counterfeits one-at-a-time in a stream of 250 million individual packages entering the country each year. "Shoppers can buy things online direct from China and everything comes through the mail," says Matthew Bourke, a spokesman for the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, part of the Department of Homeland Security. "It makes enforcement incredibly difficult."