Thousands of fake Nike sneakers worth $2.2 million were seized at the Los Angeles and Long Beach seaports, authorities said Wednesday.
Almost 15,000 pairs were found in a shipment from China, hidden in containers labelled “napkins,” according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release.
The containers were carrying Nike’s Air Jordans and Air Max shoes, including models that are special edition and typically cost up to $2,000 online.
“These special edition Nike and retro designs are highly coveted by collectors and sport shoes enthusiasts,” CBP said. “Consumers shopping online are eventually likely to encounter fraudulent sellers.
Authorities said the trade of fake sneakers often funds criminal enterprises that smuggle the shoes across borders.
“Counterfeit brand-name shoes is a multi-million dollar criminal industry,” CBP Port Director LaFonda Sutton-Burke said in a written statement. “The trafficking of these items is extremely lucrative and becomes more profitable in markets involving successful and popular products.”
China has been the leading manufacturer of both legitimate and fake sneakers for decades, with the country producing about 86% of the world’s counterfeit goods, according to 2016 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The fake sneaker industry has proliferated through online marketplaces and social media platforms, the Los Angeles Times reported. Many buyers contact sellers through chatrooms and e-commerce sites.
“Transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from American intellectual property by selling their counterfeit and piratical goods not only in the U.S. but around the world,” L.A.’s Homeland Security Investigations chief, Joseph Macias, said.