ORLANDO, Fla. – As football fans start snatching up Super Bowl souvenirs, federal agents said they are starting to see a surge in counterfeit merchandise.
“We do find all these items, and we confiscate them,” said Juan Carlos Estevez, Trade Supervisor for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Orlando.
He told News 6 his agents helped confiscate large shipments of NFL souvenirs that were making their way to retailers in Central Florida and Raymond James Stadium, which is the home of Super Bowl 55.
He said all of them were counterfeit.
“They were different shipments,” he said. “One was targeted (by agents) prior to their arrival, and one was just -- the officer had a hunch and opened the package, and he was right.”
He said it’s not just happening at Orlando International Airport.
Estevez said agents have confiscated counterfeit goods at all ports of entry in Central Florida. That includes airports in Sanford, Daytona Beach and Melbourne, and even at Port Canaveral.
“You pick a city around the country that is hosting the Super Bowl -- and it happened to be Miami and now Tampa -- certainly we surge in the amount of merchandise being counterfeited,” said Ray Escobar, a Supervisory Agent for Homeland Security Investigations.
He said these seizures are part of Operation Team Player, where federal agents work with the NFL to crack down on unofficial merchandise.
According to government figures, the operation has resulted in millions and millions of dollars’ worth of fake goods being intercepted before they hit store shelves.
So, why is a cheap product bad?
Estevez pointed to one of this year’s big products: face masks. He said counterfeit masks could be dangerous to your health.
“Counterfeiters don’t care for your health, your family’s health, or anything like that,” he said. “These items are done in an uncontrolled environment with non-tested chemicals and an unsafe environment.”
Escobar warned, your money could also be going to help fund organized criminal activity and possibly terrorism.
“Is it the real deal? Well, if it’s a deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.
Currently, agents are working to trace the items that were intercepted and arrest the people who shipped them.
Both agencies urge consumers to look for the hologram label, which indicates an official NFL souvenir and to purchase them from retailers you know and trust.