While it may seem harmless enough to buy a fake designer bag, the sale of such counterfeit goods frequently traces back to organized crime. In addition, counterfeit goods cost US companies $250 billion a year in lost sales according to the US Chamber of Commerce.
The Customs and Border Patrol agency is vigilant in searching out fake goods being imported into the country and has import specialists who work with CBP officers in the field to identify such products before they end up for sale in the US.
Border patrol officers made two high-profile interceptions of fake goods in Florida in mid July alone. These agents seized 10,788 counterfeit Gucci and Coach handbags at the Miami seaport on July 15. If they had been genuine, the bags would have retailed for more than $4.9 million.
On July 13, agents in Tampa seized more than 860 counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. These products would have been worth $123.455 if they were genuine.
The CBP is especially active monitoring imports that go through Tampa, since many goods imported through there are fake. Recent interdictions included counterfeit watches, jewelry, electronics, and shirts among many others.
In addition to being from nefarious sources and taking money away from Americans, counterfeit imported goods can be toxic and dangerous. Toothpaste from China falsely labeled as Colgate contained toxic antifreeze in 2013, and cheap electrical cords with fake Underwriters Laboratories tags have been known to catch fire.
Federal statistics indicated that 81% of all of the counterfeit goods seized in 2006 were from China according to the Tampa Tribune. The CBP reported that China and Hong Kong were the top sources for the counterfeit goods they seized in fiscal year 2014. The value of the goods that the CBP seized that year was estimated at $1.2 billion.
While seizing pocketbooks may not have the glamour associated with intercepting dangerous criminals crossing the border, in the big picture, border patrol agents who focus on counterfeit goods are protecting American consumers and greatly helping the US economy.