“Operation Red Zone” may sound like something from an NFL team playbook, but on January 31, 2013, the results of this sting operation were announced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, which teamed up with the NFL, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, PayPal, and state and local police departments around the country.
The goal of “Operation Red Zone” was not a touchdown but rather the seizure of fake NFL merchandise and tickets during the days, weeks, and months leading up to the Super Bowl. See ICE Jan. 31, 2013 News Release.
“Operation Red Zone” began in September and has so far resulted in 23 arrests, seizure of $13.6 million in fake merchandise (more than 160,000 items, including jerseys and hats), and seizure of 313 websites. Visitors attempting to reach the affected websites are now greeted with a banner that notifies the visitor of the government seizure and educates the visitor about the federal crime of copyright infringement.
The team of brand enforcers is benefiting from the previous two years’ experience: The seizures in the current “Operation Red Zone” represent approximately three times the amount from last year. Brandon Butler, Super Bowl Bust: US Takes Down 313 Websites, Snags $13.6 M in Counterfeit NFL Merchandise, NetworkWorld, Jan. 31, 2013.
ICE Director John Morton said, “The Super Bowl is one of the nation’s most exciting events. Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand. The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans and fuels crime overseas.” News Release.
“Operation Red Zone” is already scheduled to go into overtime. The current sting operation will extend until February 6—the Wednesday after the Super Bowl.
Sources: News Release, “ICE, CBP, USPIS Seize More than $13.6 Million in Fake NFL Merchandise during ‘Operation Red Zone’ 313 Websites Seized and 23 Individuals Arrested Nationwide for Selling Counterfeit NFL Merchandise,” Jan. 31, 2013; and Brandon Butler, “Super Bowl Bust: US Takes Down 313 Websites, Snags $13.6 M in Counterfeit NFL Merchandise,” NetworkWorld, Jan. 31, 2013.