HSI special agents seize $825,570 worth of counterfeit goods

You never know what you'll find at a flea market – antiques, toys or even a deal of a lifetime. But special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) warn that those deals of a lifetime may be too good to be true.

Across the country, flea markets have become notorious hot spots for selling counterfeit goods. That was the case Feb. 13, when HSI special agents identified vendors peddling counterfeit purses, shoes and jewelry items at a flea market just outside Tampa, Fla.

"We had received tips that individuals were fraudulently selling trademarked items here," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

That day, special agents seized more than 6,200 items with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $825,570. The items falsely exhibited trademarks of Hello Kitty, Gucci, Rolex, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Perry Ellis.

"A good rule of thumb is for buyers to beware. When you purchase these items you're not getting a quality product from the trademark-holder. You're getting a substandard one," said McCormick. "You're also contributing to the loss of American jobs."

This seizure follows on the heels of an operation that took place earlier this month. On Feb. 1, HSI Tampa special agents seized nearly $1.2 million worth of fake designer purses, perfume, scarves and sunglasses from an individual already awaiting sentencing for trafficking in counterfeit goods.

ICE is the lead agency investigating intellectual property theft. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition estimates that counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses between $200 and $500 billion each year and more than 750,000 American jobs.