Federal agents intercepted shipments containing 230 knockoff designer handbags, wallets and other items destined for Minneapolis and the Duluth area that could have fetched an estimated $560,000 had the goods reached the retail market, authorities announced.
The seizures Friday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were the third and fourth by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers in Minnesota since mid-December involving counterfeit items that authorities say could have sold for more than $1.2 million to unwitting buyers.
"CBP officers play a critical role in the nation's efforts to keep unsafe counterfeit and pirated goods from harming the American public," Augustine Moore, area port director in Minneapolis, said in a statement accompanying Monday's announcement.
In fiscal 2020, CBP nationwide seized 26,503 shipments containing goods in violation of intellectual property rights. The agency estimated that the total retail value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was nearly $1.3 billion. Watches, jewelry and computer equipment are the more common counterfeit items seized.
The two seizures last week involved shipments from Laos, according to CBP. Federal inspectors determined the handbags, wallets, fanny packs and phone cases were in violation of trademark and copyright codes. The items sported logos of fashion houses including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others.
One shipment with 146 items was destined for a home in Minneapolis, while the second with 84 items was heading to a residence in Superior, Wis., just across from Duluth. If the goods were authentic, the retail value would have been $562,719, the CBP estimated.
The agency explains that it targets counterfeit merchandise for seizure because it is often made of inferior materials, manufactured under uncontrolled and unsanitary conditions, and labeled with false information, "potentially threatening the health and safety of buyers and users."
On Dec. 16, federal agents intercepted a shipment of knockoff designer handbags and wallets from Laos destined for St. Paul that would have sold for nearly $406,000.
On Jan. 15, Border patrol agents in International Falls, Minn., seized a shipment of 780 counterfeit space heaters that could have commanded more than $260,000 had they made it to market.
Authorities have not disclosed whether there have been any arrests made or charges filed in connection with any of these seizures.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482