HOUSTON - Every year, devoted fans desperate for a seat at the Super Bowl shell out big bucks for what turn out to be counterfeit tickets. Even if the tickets fans buy off-market are authentic, there's a chance they could have been reported stolen or lost by the original buyers, rendering them useless.
And of course who knows how many people buy what they think are genuine NFL hats or jerseys, when they've been swindled into purchasing fake stuff.
On Thursday morning, representatives from the NFL, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Houston Police Department, Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Harris County Constable's Office teamed up for a news conference warning consumers and would-be counterfeiters that a formidable force is on guard.
Already "Operation Team Player," as the joint endeavor is called, has resulted in the seizure of 260,000 sports-related items worth an estimated $20 million, and there have been 56 arrests and 50 convictions, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tip sheet released during the conference.
The NFL, as it does each year, has obtained a court order allowing the immediate seizure of fake tickets or merchandise, said NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella.
"If you're out there and you're engaged in (counterfeiting), we'll find you, we'll arrest you and we'll charge you and we'll seize all the merchandise," Houston Police Department Capt. Dwyane Ready said.
At a previous security-themed news conference, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo noted that of the arrests made near the Super Bowl fan plaza so far, several dealt with fake stuff.
“We’ve made six trademark counterfeiting arrests.. that led to the seizure of 10,000 items with a retail value of $500,000,” he added. “We’re not going to let people steal the intellectual properties of folks who actually own those rights.”
Mike Buchwald, Senior Counsel at National Football League, displayed several real Super Bowl tickets and detailed the many intricate features embedded to thwart counterfeiters - raised surfaces, hologram images and such. Criminals selling fakes are ever more sophisticated in creating copies, he said, and every year customers get hoodwinked.
"Every year we see fans who arrive at the stadium on game day only to be turned away," he said. "No matter how real the ticket may look, a fake ticket will not get you into the game."
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