The NFL has seized a record $13.6 million worth of counterfeit merchandise this season through a nationwide sting effort called "Operation Red Zone," the league announced Thursday. In cooperation with government officials, the bust included an effort in Warwick, R.I., when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Inspection Service collected 226 boxes containing 4,016 counterfeit jerseys. It also included 160,000 Super Bowl-related memorabilia. "Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand," ICE director John Morton said in a statement. "The sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans, and fuels crime overseas. No good comes of counterfeiting American products -- whether NFL jerseys, airbags, or pharmaceuticals -- and we must go after the criminals behind it." An ESPN "Outside The Lines" investigation has discovered a growing difficulty in stopping counterfeiters. More websites, mostly from China, are selling directly to the consumer. It is a crime to sell counterfeit gear, but not to buy it.
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