Federal authorities have shut down 150 websites accused of selling knock-off or pirated merchandise to unsuspecting online bargain hunters.
The government seized domain names for sites that sold everything from fake NBA jerseys to replica Louis Vuitton handbags and imitation Ugg boots. "This is straight crime," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton. "This is people being duped into buying a counterfeit."
The federal government has seized the domain names of 350 websites since first targeting online counterfeiters in June 2010. Each investigation, Morton said, has grown.
Visitors to the seized domains are now greeted with a message from federal authorities explaining that the site has been seized by the government and a warning that "willful copyright infringement is a federal crime."
Morton and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said while the domain names were registered in the United States, most of the websites were run from abroad, primarily in China, which will make finding and prosecuting individuals difficult.
Morton said buying knock-off jerseys or sunglasses may seem trivial, but the profits made by counterfeiters can help fund far more nefarious activities.
"We are worried about organized crime," Morton said, and that profits "are going to fuel other criminal activity."
The Associated Press