The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security division seized 70 websites that peddle imitation goods manufactured abroad, according to an agency release.
The 70 websites seized are part of Project Copy Cat, an iteration of Operation In Our Sites (IOS), and closely mimicked legitimate websites selling authentic merchandise and duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods. Many of the websites so closely resembled the legitimate websites that it would be difficult for even the most discerning consumer to tell the difference.
The websites are now shut down and their domain names are in the custody of the federal government.
Agents from Colorado, Utah, New Jersey, and Texas accessed the websites and purchased a variety of imitation goods, including sports jerseys, jewelry, fitness DVDs, and baby carriers. They then turned the merchandise over to genuine manufacturers to verify whether the products were counterfeit.
ICE Director John Morton scored the raid a win for consumers and producers.
"This operation targeted criminals making a buck by trying to trick consumers into believing they were buying name brand products from legitimate websites when in fact they were buying counterfeits from illegal but sophisticated imposter sites located overseas," he said in a statement. "The imposter sites were simply a fraud from start to finish and served no purpose other than to defraud and dupe unwary shoppers."
The cyber raids fall under the jurisdiction of Operation In Our Sites (IOS). Since embattled Attorney General Eric Holder created the taskforce in 2010, IOS has seized about 770 domain names, 229 of which are now officially the property of the federal government.
ICE is most widely recognized as the lead agency in charge of deporting illegal immigrants.