Sterling, VA–Your overseas vacation is drawing to an end and you’re preparing to fly back to the United States. You want to grab some last-minute souvenirs or mementos, so you hit the hotel gift shop or airport duty-free and buy a t-shirt or two, maybe hand-crafted jewelry or traditional artwork, or even a bottle or two of local wine or alcohol. Or maybe 298 pieces of counterfeit consumer items.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Washington Dulles International Airport completed the seizure on Tuesday, a seizure of counterfeit merchandise in a passenger’s baggage that appraised at more than $500,000 if the items were authentic.
This seizure started about six weeks earlier when Customs and Border Protection officers referred a Laurel, Maryland woman to a secondary baggage inspection after she arrived on a flight from South Korea on April 10.
She stated that she returned from Thailand with six pieces of luggage, but declared, both verbally and in writing, that she did not purchase any merchandise on her trip. However, when airline employees brought the woman’s baggage to the Customs and Border Protection inspection area, they presented 12 bags that were tagged to the traveler. Then officers discovered newly purchased and potentially counterfeit clothing in the first two bags that they inspected.
When CBP officers completed their inspection of all 12 bags, the amount of potentially counterfeit clothing they found covered four inspection tables. In total, officers detained 298 pieces of clothing, scarves, hats, shoes, and jewelry bearing designed brand names of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, Prada, Gianni Versace, and others.
CBP officers inventoried all 298 items and submitted documentation to Customs and Border Protection’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise, which are the agency’s trade experts, for a final determination and an appraisal.
On May 23, Customs and Border Protection import specialists confirmed that the items as counterfeit and appraised the shipment at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $509,431, had the items been authentic.
Officers seized the shipment on May 24. They are withholding the traveler’s name because she has not been criminally charged.
“Customs and Border Protection officers sometimes encounter counterfeit consumer goods in passenger baggage, but rarely at this brazen volume,” said Daniel Escobedo, Customs and Border Protection’s Area Port Director for the Area Port of Washington, D.C. “The international trade in counterfeit consumer goods is illegal. It steals revenues from trademark holders, steals tax revenues from the government, funds transnational criminal organizations, and the unregulated products potentially threaten the health and safety of American consumers.”
The last time officers saw such a volume was last fall when officers seized more than $1 million in counterfeit consumer goods packed inside the luggage of two women who arrived from Qatar.