BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - It's easier than you may think to find counterfeit merchandise in western New York stores. But the men and women who secure our border do everything they can to keep illegal knock-offs from ever making it onto shelves.
"With anything, if it's profitable and in demand, it's going to be counterfeited," Joe Draganac, Buffalo Port Director for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), explained.
People don't understand when you purchase counterfeit goods, you might be unwittingly supporting criminal organizations and terrorists around the globe
Draganac and his colleagues from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agreed to show News 4 some of the materials they have seized.
Bogus boots, counterfeit cologne, and knock-off handbags were piled high on a table inside a conference room inside offices at the Peace Bridge. Some of the items were clearly knock-offs but others require a refined eye. "You get what you pay for. If you pay $20 for a Coach purse, it's going to be poor quality," Draganac said.
The men and women working at CBP in western New York have plenty of experience to be able to identify fake merchandise. They're specially trained to find fraud.
"We've seen skin products, like a Clarisonic facial scrub. We've seen curling irons. You name it, we've seen it," Draganac said.
HSI says counterfeiting is a big concern at the border. "This is a global problem and it affects the global economy. There are estimates out there that organizations involved in counterfeiting and piracy are raking in hundreds of billions a year worldwide," James Spero, HSI Special Agent in Charge told News 4.
What's been seized?
Click below to see a Photo Gallery of just some of the actual items seized at the border
Items confiscated at WNY borders include:
- Beats by Dre headphones
- Ugg boots
- Cellphone cases and covers
- Designer purses
- Shampoo and toothpaste
Report potentially counterfeit merchandise | IPRcenter.gov
Agents showed News 4 fake Beats by Dre headphones. They look good, but they don't feel real when you pick them up; in addition, "the beats" barely beat. They don't have the quality sound the real product is known for.
Officers have seized numerous purses made to look like designer handbags. "The craftsmanship is very poor on them," Draganac observed.
Agents also showed News 4 cellphone covers that can cause your phone to overheat potentially burning your skin.
Counterfeit cologne could be trouble, too. "You don't know what's in it; what chemicals are in it. If you sprayed that stuff on your skin right now, you'd probably get a pretty bad rash," Draganac said.
A bogus bottle of Biolage shampoo could cause injuries. "That started by somebody from the community returning it to a store, and it happened to have glass in it," he added.
Agents found fake Viagra for sale by the pill at gas stations in WNY. "Some of the drugs may have the active ingredient it's supposed to, but it may be too much. In one particular case, that Viagra had very small amounts of the active ingredient," SAC Spero noted.
Officers at the bridges have even seized toothpaste that contained antifreeze. "So it's very dangerous, very deadly," Draganc warned.
CBP allowed News 4 inside its inspection area for trucks. Some shipments are randomly inspected. Others items are targeted for inspection.
"Mainly what they're looking for is things out of the ordinary; specific routing issues, high risk shipments, things that were counterfeited in the past," Draganac said.
Officers open boxes, check craftsmanship and even look at labels. Officers need positive proof the goods are real. Officials told News 4 that many seized products comes through South East Asia. WNY is a unique area due to having many transit points; some shipments will try to disguise the point of origin of the product.
CBP works with HSI to target the major smugglers.
Seized items are held while smugglers are prosecuted. "Eventually, after the investigation, if it’s determined to be counterfeit, it will be destroyed. We’ll send it to a contractor and have it officially destroyed," Draganac confirmed.
Some items are burned. CBP sometimes donates counterfeit clothes to third world countries.
How can you help?
Officers and agents need your help enforcing federal law.
- Trust your gut
- Carefully check the product, look for signs of inferior quality, even typos on the labels
- Sports merchandise should have clean, crisp holograms
- Know who you're doing business with
Investigators request you report potentially counterfeit merchandise at the National Intellectual Property Rights Center at IPRcenter.gov
"A lot of people don't understand when you purchase these counterfeit goods, you might be unwittingly supporting criminal organizations and terrorists around the globe," Spero said.
WIVB.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.