Federal government crackdown on imported contraband during holiday shopping rush – NBC Chicago
Federal authorities seized thousands of counterfeit items worth more than $ 5 million as part of a crackdown on imported contraband at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport ahead of the holidays.
As shoppers rush to buy and ship last-minute gifts, thousands of overseas packages are processed and examined every day at O’Hare’s massive international courier facility.
Institutional investigators review what’s going on all year round, but all this week, agents from Homeland Security Investigations, working with Customs and Border Protection, have been engaged in an additional push to verify what’s happening. happened during the holiday rush.
“We only encountered a plethora of items that could be potentially dangerous,” said Chris Watkins, deputy special agent for HSI.
“Operation Safe Holidays” ran from Oct. 1 to Dec. 16 of this year, with a “blitz” of increased resources in its final week, according to federal officials. More than 8,300 counterfeit items, including pharmaceuticals, counterfeit designer items, unlicensed sports memorabilia and more, were seized, valued at an estimated $ 5.7 million, authorities said. Five people were arrested in the effort.
Imitation Rolex watches, fake postage stamps, fake driver’s licenses, counterfeit Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags, even a fake Audi grill were among the items confiscated on their way to the States- United. COVID treatments like Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine, Viagra and more.
Among the items recovered this week was the underside of an AR-15 assault rifle from Taiwan in a package labeled “accessory kit.”
Officers say a lot of things come in labeled as something they’re not.
“If it says these are shoes and you can actually hear metal clicking in there, those are red flags,” Watkins said.
Investigators say they’re not as interested in one-off items – like a counterfeit handbag bought as a gift – as they are the most dangerous items or those that sell in high volume.
“This is going to a business, a physical business, or a website business, and they move millions of dollars in items, it’s worth looking into a little bit more, and hopefully we can make some other foreclosures and possibly making arrests, ”Watkins said.
One of these arrests during “Operation Safe Holidays” in 2019 was that of Robin Huberty, from the suburb of Bolingbrook.
HSI agents said they noticed a high volume of packages containing counterfeit sports shirts destined for Huberty’s home.
Working with authorities in Will County, they authorized the delivery of a package of counterfeit goods, then raided his home, seizing, among other things, a car and more than $ 162,000.
Huberty pleaded guilty to four counts of trademark infringement last month and was ordered to pay more than $ 30,000 in fines and restitution.