Sports Collectors Daily has learned that agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations seized more than 160 counterfeit NFL jerseys were seized last Friday from two Phoenix sports memorabilia stores.
According to the agency, the businesses were targeted for investigation following a tip from a “concerned citizen”. HSI agents visited the stores, confirmed that they were selling counterfeit merchandise and seized 163 jerseys.
The names of the stores were not released.
“As the NFL playoffs heat up, we’re reminding consumers to give the cold shoulder to deals too good to be true,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Arizona. “Although there is no evidence at this time that the store owners were intentionally defrauding their customers and infringing on NFL trademarks, we’re continuing to monitor them and will seek federal charges if they engage in these practices again.”
Most of the jerseys were unsigned but two bore signatures including one purported to have been autographed by Ben Roethlisberger. According to ICE, an NFL representative doubted their authenticity but verification will likely not be made.
Dealers have run afoul of the law on many well-publicized occasions by purchasing knock-off jerseys to have signed and re-selling them at a price much lower than a collector or fan would pay for an authentic jersey but the NFL is very aggressive in protecting its partnership agreements with apparel manufacturers.
HSI agents say consumers should follow a few simple tips to help ensure they are buying authentic jerseys: Counterfeit goods have poor stitching around names and numbers, which is often particularly noticeable on the inside of the item. Incorrect spelling on sewn labels and counterfeit NFL logos, which should be holographic, are also indications of an illegal knock-off.
ICE manages the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which plays a pivotal role in the U.S. government’s domestic and international law enforcement attack on IPR violations.