Orioles

Feds: $13.6M in phony sports goods confiscated

201301311112403298296-p2.jpeg

Feds: $13.6M in phony sports goods confiscated

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Investigators have confiscated more than $13.6 million worth of phony sports merchandise over the past five months and expect to seize more in New Orleans during Super Bowl week, a federal law-enforcement official said Thursday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said authorities also have shut down more than 300 websites selling counterfeit goods as part of an enforcement effort dubbed ``Operation Red Zone.'' The operation targeted international shipments of jerseys, hats and other souvenirs entering the U.S. for sale by stores, flea markets and street vendors.

And federal investigators say they have intelligence that shows even the Mexican drug cartels are getting involved in the counterfeit NFL black market trade because they can make quick money by selling fake jerseys in flea markets and parking lots.

In September, for example, HSI's newly created trade enforcement unit seized dozens of counterfeit San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins jerseys around New Mexico. Agents have also raided flea markets in El Paso, Texas, and seized NFL jerseys that federal agents say were believed to be linked to cartels in northern Mexico and local gangs like Barrio Azteca.

Officials say that a number of seizures of fake NFL materials have shown evidence that cartels are venturing into the lucrative black market in border states, although they are just finding out how the operations work. Federal agents believe cartels are using the counterfeit trade to launder money and expand their illegal activities as authorities step up drug enforcement.

``Cartels are seeking to get their hands into any illegal activity they can,'' said Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico. ``A lot of folks may think that there's nothing wrong with buying a knockoff Denver Broncos jersey, but in reality, the money is being used to fund the drug war in Mexico.''

More than 160,000 counterfeit items, mostly purporting to be official Super Bowl and other NFL merchandise, were seized during ``Operation Red Zone.'' A total of 23 people have been arrested on related charges since September 2012.

``We attacked the counterfeiters at every point along the criminal supply chain,'' Morton said during a press briefing in New Orleans.

Morton said agents also were in the city this week to crack down on the sale of counterfeit merchandise before Sunday's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.

``This just takes good old-fashioned police work, people getting out on the streets,'' he said.

This is the fifth consecutive year that federal authorities have launched a similar operation to crack down on the sale of counterfeit sports goods. Roughly $5.1 million in goods were seized during the previous one, Morton said.

``This is the largest number we've ever seized,'' Morton said of the $13.6 million.

Morton said copycat websites selling bogus merchandise have become increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to dupe customers into believing they're purchasing licensed, official sportswear.

``The prices are not ridiculously low. They're just discounted enough to fool the consumer,'' he added.

Andy Hageman, owner of House of Football, an Albuquerque store that sells authentic, licensed NFL products, said every week he gets customers who find out that they had purchased fake jerseys online or at other stores. ``They ask me to see if the shirt is a fake, and I usually can tell right away,'' said Hageman.

The quality counterfeit jerseys also vary, federal officials say. Authentic jerseys can usually be identified by the required NFL hologram logo and the high quality stitching, officials said.

``Sometimes, you can't even tell they are fakes,'' said Abar. ``Other time, the jerseys have `Patriots' misspelled.''

Anastasia Danias, the NFL's vice president for legal affairs, said fans also need to be wary of buying counterfeit Super Bowl tickets from ``any suspicious sources.''

``We learn of hundreds of fans every year who travel to the host city with the hope of watching their team play in the Super Bowl game only to be turned away at the gate, having bought counterfeit tickets or tickets that were reported lost or stolen,'' she said.

---

Associated Press writer Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.

Quick Links

Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

machado_indians.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

BALTIMORE -- Mike Clevenger pitched a two-hitter in his first career complete game, and the Cleveland Indians hit three solo homers off Chris Tillman in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with his team-leading fifth home run. Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso also went deep for Cleveland, which came into the game ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs and last in batting average.

Clevenger (2-0) hardly needed the offensive support. Pitching on seven days' rest, the right-hander struck out three, walked two and allowed only one runner past first base.

The only two hits he allowed were singles by Manny Machado in the fourth inning and Chance Sisco in the fifth.

It was Clevenger's 35th career start. His previous longest outing was 7 1/3 innings, earlier this month against Kansas City.

While Clevenger is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 31, Tillman has experienced an opposite fate. This was his 22nd straight start without a victory, dating back to his first outing last season.

Tillman (0-4) gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings. The three home runs were one more than he yielded in his first three starts this season.

Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring groundout in the first inning and Gomes connected in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, their lone threat against Clevenger, who responded by retiring Tim Beckham on a short fly to left and getting Anthony Santander to ground out.

Ramirez led off the sixth with a drive to left, and Alonso hit a two-out shot that landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.

Quick Links

Tarik's 3 Stars: Nick Backstrom the OT hero in series-changing Game 5 win

backstrom_game5-jackets-capitals-usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Tarik's 3 Stars: Nick Backstrom the OT hero in series-changing Game 5 win

Nicklas Backstrom tipped in a Dmitry Orlov shot in overtime, and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-3 in Game 5 to take a three-games-to-two series lead in their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

Washington can now clinch the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Monday night in Columbus.

The Capitals gave up the first goal in the game for the first time in the series. But the Capitals had an answer. The Capitals then took the lead. But the Blue Jackets had an answer. The Capitals took the lead again in the second period, but the Blue Jackets tied the game in the third.

But Nicklas Backstrom had the answer in overtime.

Tarik El-Bashir's 3 Stars of Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Game 3 

1. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

Backstrom delivered the Caps’ biggest goal of the season 11:53 into the extra session by knocking a point shot by Dmitry Orlov down and past Sergei Bobrovsky, who was the Blue Jackets’ best player in overtime.

The goal was Backstrom’s first of the series.

He also recorded an assist.

2. Matt Calvert, Blue Jackets

The third line winger scored nine goals in the regular season. After popping a couple in Game 5, he’s now got three in this series.

And Saturday’s was a doozy. After T.J. Oshie mishandled the puck at the blue line, Calvert was off to the races. He whiffed on his wrist shot but still managed to get the puck (and himself) in the net to even things, 2-2, early in the second period.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals

Kuzy was arguably the Caps’ most active forward.

Early in the second period, the smooth-skating center finished a three-on-one with a sneaky wrister that slithered through Bobrovsky’s pads. Kuznetsov also nearly set up Alex Ovechkin at the doorstep with a ridiculous slap pass. Alas, Ovi was turned by Bob, who went into the full splits to get a piece of the puck.

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.