Federal authorities seized thousands of counterfeit items worth more than $5 million in a crackdown on imported contraband at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport ahead of the holiday season.
As shoppers rush to buy and deliver last-minute gifts, thousands of packages arrive from abroad are processed and scrutinized every day at O’Hare’s vast International Mail Facility.
Investigators at the facility check what’s coming year-round, but throughout this week agents from the Homeland Security Investigations Agency, working with Customs and Border Protection, have been participating. Add a batch to check out what’s arrived during the peak holiday season.
“We encountered a lot of potentially dangerous items,” said HSI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Watkins.
Federal officials said “Operation Safe Vacation” ran from October 1 to December 16 of this year, with a “massive” increase in resources in its final week, federal officials said. state said. Authorities say more than 8,300 counterfeit items, including pharmaceuticals, counterfeit designer goods, unlicensed sports memorabilia and more, have an estimated value of $5.7 million. Five people were arrested in the attempt.
Fake Rolex watches, fake postage stamps, fake driver’s licenses, fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags, and even a fake Audi oven were some of the items that were confiscated when they arrived in the US. COVID treatments like Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine, Viagra and more.
Among the items recalled this week is the lower part of an AR-15 assault rifle from Taiwan in a package labeled “accessory kit”.
Dealers say many are labeled as something that isn’t.
“If it says it’s shoes and you can actually hear metal around there – those are red flags,” says Watkins.
Investigators said they weren’t interested in one-time purchases – like a fake wallet bought as a gift – because they were more dangerous items or high-volume items.
“This is going to happen to a business, a brick-and-mortar business or a website business, and they’re shipping millions of dollars worth of items, that’s worth looking at a bit more and hopefully we have could make some extra moves and possibly make some arrests,” Watkins said.
One such arrest during “Operation Safe Vacation” in 2019 was Robin Huberty, in the suburb of Bolingbrook.
HSI agents said they noticed a large number of parcels containing fake sports jerseys destined for Huberty’s home.
Working with Will County authorities, they authorized delivery of a counterfeit parcel, then raided his home, seizing, among other things, a car and more than $162,000.
Last month, Huberty pleaded guilty to four felony trademark infringement counts and was ordered to pay more than $30,000 in fines and restitution.
https://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/feds-crack-down-on-imported-contraband-during-holiday-shopping-rush/2710564/ Feds Crack Down on Imported contraband during holiday shopping craze – NBC Chicago