US closes 150 websites in counterfeit crackdown
US authorities said Monday they have shut down 150 websites offering counterfeit goods like sports jerseys and luxury handbags in an operation tied to the pre-Christmas shopping surge.
The shutdowns, launched last week on the eve of the "Black Friday" post-Thanksgiving shopping surge, hit websites that were mostly backed by China-based counterfeiters, according to John Morton, director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which led the operation.
ICE seized the domain names of the websites, posting a statement declaring the seizure on the website home pages.
"In a day when many consumers are shopping on line, we have, working together, disrupted the sale of thousands and thousands of counterfeit goods," said Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice.
Most of the shuttered websites were offering jerseys and other items of US professional football, basketball, and hockey teams.
The counterfeit jerseys from one, NFLjerseyssupply.org, sold football jerseys for $46 that on official sites go for up to $115.
Other sites offered brand-name sunglasses, Louis Vuitton handbags, Ugg boots among other products.
"They are exactly the kinds of products that Americans are looking for," said Breuer.
The announcement of the seizure came on "Cyber Monday," a day when online Christmas shopping has surged in recent years.
Morton said that, as in last year's operation, which shut down 58 websites, the operations were mainly overseas, "predominantly from China."
He also said some were backed by organized crime, but declined to give any details.
"We're all very concerned... about the connection to organized crime and the ability for the profits from these sorts of crimes fueling other criminal activities."
(c) 2011 AFP