Tens of thousands of counterfeit toy airplanes were seized from a rail car trying to cross from Canada into the International Falls, Minn., area in early August, according to federal authorities.
After examining the 36,000 airplanes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determined that neither the importer nor the manufacturer was licensed to display the trademarks or produce the seized toys, which originated from China.
The agency estimated that if the toys had made it to market, their combined retail value would have topped $575,000.
"Counterfeiters look to make profits by making fake versions of the hottest products as soon they are available on the market," Jason Givens, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said. "Each time someone buys a counterfeit good, a legitimate company loses revenue. This translates to lost profits and U.S. jobs over time."
The agency, which said the toys were seized near International Falls, released a photo of a toy fighter jet in a box with the Denver Die Cast brand. Givens, however, declined to identify the company or companies whose products were being illegally copied.
Givens added that along with cheating a legitimate business out of money, counterfeiters don't care about the well-being of the people who buy their products. "They just want to make a profit. Many counterfeit products are low-quality and can cause injuries," he said.
Customs and Border Protection seized more items in 2016 that pose health and safety risks than in any previous year, the spokesman said.
Givens declined to reveal how officers suspected the rail car was carrying illegal cargo. The toys will be destroyed after the investigation is complete, Givens said.
He added that he's unaware of anyone being arrested, charged or punished in this case. He also declined to reveal who was behind the production and shipment of the toy airplanes.
Like the goods in this shipment, "the vast majority of seized items [trying to enter the United States] involving intellectual property rights violations come from China (52 percent) and Hong Kong (36 percent)," Givens said.
On a typical day in fiscal-year 2016, Customs and Border Protection seized $3.8 million worth of products with these types of violations. Apparel, consumer electronics and footwear led the way.