Federal agents intercepted a shipment of knockoff designer handbags and wallets destined for St. Paul that would have sold for an estimated $400,000 to unwitting buyers had they reached the retail market, authorities announced Thursday.

The shipment of 173 items from Laos arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's international mail facility and quickly drew suspicions of being knockoffs, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

"Due to various inconsistencies, poor quality, and the incorrect packaging, further inspection by CBP import specialists determined the items were counterfeit," the agency said in a statement. "If they were authentic, the retail value would have been $405,975."

The items sported labels that made them appear to be designed by fashion giants Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others.

CBP took control of the shipment on Dec. 16 at the airport before it could reach its destination, a residence in St. Paul, then had them inspected and declared permanently seized on Tuesday.

Federal authorities have not said who was supposed to have received the shipment or whether any arrests have been made.

Along with attempting to prevent retail fraud, the CBP said it is on the lookout for counterfeit items because they are often made in unsanitary conditions that create a health risk to buyers and users.

"Our officers and import specialists have done an excellent job targeting shipments and identifying counterfeit items," said Augustine Moore, area port director in Minneapolis. "These types of violations negatively impact trademark holders and [are] dangerous to consumers, as well."

In fiscal 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments containing goods in violation of intellectual property rights. The total retail value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was nearly $1.3 billion.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482