EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Hours before Sunday’s Super Bowl, federal agents seized more than $86,000 in fake NFL jerseys, hats and other pro sports merchandise in El Paso.
The operation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at the popular Fox Plaza swap meet took place in response to complaints that bogus name brand merchandise was being sold there prior to the Big Game, said Jesse Lazcano, acting assistant special agent in charge of the agency’s El Paso office.
The agents did not arrest any buyers or sellers.
“First, it starts as an interdiction. From there, once we get the merchandise verified with authenticators, then it becomes an investigation,” Lazcano said. Sellers could then face warnings or, in the case of repeat offenders, prosecution under federal copyright infringement laws.
The investigation is conducted by a group inside HSI that specializes in commercial fraud. Officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety assisted during the seizures, he added.
It’s fairly easy to spot fake brand-name merchandise because of its quality or lack of it. The material feels “wrong” to the touch and items like Patrick Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo football jerseys that should cost upwards of $100 were being sold for half the price, he said. In addition, merchandise from brands like Nike has tags with holograms and serial numbers on them. The seized merchandise had neither.
“We just want to inform the public: buyer beware. When you purchase some of this stuff,” you get what you pay for, Lazcano said.
He added that Fox Plaza operators cooperated with authorities and that the more than 300 individual items seized will be destroyed once the investigation is concluded.