CINCINNATI — More than $5 million in counterfeit products including ball caps and watches were seized during a crackdown at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, customs officials said.
Officials said the seizure last week of 289 shipments with 27,000 mostly lower-cost items came about a year after a similar operation netted $21 million, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The seizures also netted clothing, purses and cosmetics.
The results of the crackdowns reflect what customs officials say is a national trend of more seizures of lower-value knockoffs. Instead of higher-end products like iPads or stereos, counterfeiters are more likely to focus on mass producing cheaper items, such as sports jerseys and caps.
The seizures also indicate that counterfeit goods are such a problem at the Cincinnati airport that customs officials may have to look at adding more inspectors, the newspaper reported.
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"We were a little bit surprised," said Brian Bell, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "We're going to have to look at what else we can do."
The latest seizures of about $5.4 million of goods at the Cincinnati airport came in a crackdown that ran from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23.
The total value of counterfeit products seized last year by U.S. officials was about $188 million, down from $260 million in 2009 and the lowest total in five years. The number of seizures, however, increased from about 15,000 to 20,000.
Most counterfeit products end up in flea markets, convenience stores or on eBay, where sellers either don't know or care whether the products are real.
China is by far the largest exporter of counterfeit goods, with almost 80 percent of all seized imports last year originating from that country.
U.S. officials have complained for years to the Chinese government about the fake products, saying they hurt legitimate manufacturers and consumers who believe they are buying the real thing.
"With the economy being the way it is, we don't need one more thing adding fuel to that fire," Bell said.
With producers and distributors of the knockoff products overseas, criminal charges are rarely filed, officials said.