Customs and TradeNews

48 Hours, 460 Counterfeit Rolex Watches, $10.1 Million

On April 27 and 29 , U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Indianapolis seized two shipments of Rolex watches deemed to be counterfeit by CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise.

Both shipments originated from Hong Kong and were headed to residence in Brooklyn, New York. Based on intelligence gathering and a past history of fraudulent shipments from this vendor, CBP officers detained and inspected the shipments. Inside officers discovered 300 counterfeit Rolex watches in the first shipment and 160 counterfeit Rolex watches in the second. Had the items been genuine, the cumulative Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) would have been $10.1 million. During the month of April, CBP officers in Indianapolis have seized three shipments of counterfeit watches, that if real, would have been worth $20 million.

10 Million
CBP officers in Cincinnati seized a total of 460 counterfeit
Rolex watches that were arriving from Hong Kong and 
heading to a residence in Brooklyn, New York.

Intellectual property is an important component of the U.S. economy, and Chicago Director of Field Operations, LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke emphasized the necessary role CBP plays in protecting the economy and consumer safety and health.

“No one buys a luxury brand watch expecting it to fail or fall apart. As consumers increasingly purchase from online or third party vendors, our officers are at the frontline to guard against defrauders expecting to make money selling fake merchandise.”

The rapid growth of e-commerce enables consumers to search for and easily purchase millions of products through online vendors, but this easy access gives counterfeit and pirated goods more ways to enter the U.S. economy.  Counterfeit commodities fund smugglers and members of organized crime. Consumers often believe they are buying a genuine product but soon realize the item is substandard.

“This is just another example of the work our officers do to protects consumers and the U.S. economy,” said Jeremy Brodsky, Port Director-Indianapolis. “Our officers are at the frontline protecting the U.S. economy and guarding against criminals making money by selling fake merchandise.”

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, CBP seized 27,107 shipments with IPR violations. If the seized products were genuine, the total manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the items would have been valued at over $3.3 billion. This represents a 152% increase compared to FY2020, when goods valued at $1.31 billion MSRP were seized for IPR violations. A return to pre-pandemic trading levels and an overall increase in the number of CBP seizures of counterfeit products account for the significant rise in MSRP.

Additionally, adversaries are seeking to exploit an increase in volume, threatening U.S. economic interests with risks in the form of intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement as well as safety risks from poor quality and untested consumer products. In FY2021, 89 percent of IPR seizures were found in express and international mail shipments.

In FY 2021, wearing apparel and accessories topped the list for number of seizure lines with 30,681, representing 30%  of all IPR seizures.  However, watches and jewelry were the top products seized in terms of total MSRP value with seizures valued at over $1.18 billion, representing 36%  of the total. Handbags and wallets came in second with seizure lines estimated to be valued at over $972 million, corresponding to 29% of the total value of goods seized due to intellectual property rights violations. Sold online and in stores, counterfeit goods hurt the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety, and fund criminal activity. Visit the National IPR Coordination Center for more information about IPR including counterfeiting and piracy.

CBP has established an educational initiative, Truth Behind Counterfeits, to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers that are often associated with the purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods. The agency encourages anyone with information about counterfeit merchandise illegally imported into the United States to submit an e-Allegation. The e-Allegation system provides a means for the public to anonymously report to CBP any suspected violations of trade laws or regulations related to the importation of goods in the U.S.