Ahead of Super Bowl, officials unveil $39 million counterfeit haul
By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A year-long operation targeting counterfeit sporting goods resulted in the seizure of $39 million worth of merchandise, including about half a million dollars-worth in the Bay Area ahead of Super Bowl 50, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The so-called Operation Team Player started at the end of last year's Super Bowl in Arizona and authorities have since confiscated some 450,000 illegal items, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Forty-one people have been arrested on charges related to distributing the fake merchandise, and 35 people have been convicted, ICE said in a statement released ahead of Sunday's NFL championship decider. Items seized included fake NFL shirts and caps.
The San Francisco Bay Area is hosting this year's Super Bowl, with a week of events underway in San Francisco and the Denver Broncos due to take on the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said about $463,000 worth of fake merchandise has been seized in the Bay Area, and that one person was arrested this week for selling counterfeit goods.
He said about two-thirds of the fake items seized over the course of the year were discovered at ports of entry into the United States and that the vast majority of goods, such as fake jerseys, hats and cellphone accessories, are believed to be manufactured and shipped from China.
Law enforcement has kept a close eye on events around this year's Super Bowl. Federal and local authorities said on Tuesday there was no credible or specific threat against the game or the festivities, but urged the public to stay vigilant.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell)
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