Fake Holiday Merchandise, Toys and Pills Worth $33M Seized at US Ports

fake merchandise arriving at US ports in holiday rush seized
Some of the fake items founded in the containers at the southern California ports - U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo

Published Dec 22, 2020 9:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have been busy in recent weeks seeing an increase in fake merchandise arriving at U.S. ports mixed in with the shipments of holiday merchandise. As part of the rush of containers arriving in the ports on both the U.S. East and West Coast, they report a surge in counterfeit items ranging from toys to fake Viagra pills and knockoffs of brand name consumer merchandise. The recent seizures had an estimated retail value of more than $33 million.


Teams working in the ports of Southern California reported seizing three containers arriving at Long Beach and Los Angeles. The shipments included a broad range of counterfeit products arriving from China. CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, in coordination with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division, Illicit Pharmaceutical and Counterfeit Unit, worked in coordination.


Sampling of the consumer goods found in the shipments - CBP photo


They reported that the counterfeit items included more than one million erectile dysfunction pills, footwear, belts, purses, and headphones in violation of registered and recorded trademarks. If genuine, the seized merchandise would have had an estimated retail value of more than $32 million.

“Criminals are exploiting e-commerce platforms to sell counterfeit and often dangerous goods to unwitting holiday shoppers,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “CBP’s strategic partnership with HSI and LAPD’s IPCU is critical in disrupting the transnational criminal organizations behind these smuggling operations.”

At the same time, CBP officers working at the Port of New York/Newark also became suspicious of a shipment of toys believing they were anything but the real items. The CBP officers inspected the toys after they arrived from China in late November.


Fake toys that would be difficult for consumers to identify seized in New Jersey - CBP photo


Officers submitted digital images of the toys to CBP’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Center for Excellence and Expertise (CEE), the agency’s trade experts. The shipment, which included a total of 141,112 UNO card games, 9,600 LOL Surprise! Under Wraps balls, and 1,980 LOL Surprise! Under Wraps capsule toys, was seized. 

CBP’s CEE specialists worked with the trademark holders and determined the toys to be counterfeit. If authentic, these toys CBP reports would have had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of approximately $1.3 million. 

CBP completed this seizure on December 9 and handed it over to Homeland Security Investigations agents in Newark, New Jersey, who continue to investigate.

Nationwide in fiscal year 2020, CBP reports it seized more than 26,500 shipments containing counterfeit goods. The total estimated value of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was nearly $1.3 billion.


Fake pills and other merchandise seized in California - CBP photo