SALT LAKE CITY — A shipment of apparently fake NFL jerseys intended for a Sandy man are central to a federal investigation into websites that offer cheap professional sports gear.
Homeland Security Investigations filed documents in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City this week to seize seven Internet sites through which NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA team jerseys are sold. Six of the sites' registered agents are in China, one is in Malaysia.
Authorities allege the websites traffic in counterfeit goods.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Anchorage, Alaska, last fall intercepted a package from Shanghai, China, containing 41 NFL jerseys and one Major League Baseball jersey. The parcel was en route to a Sandy address.
An NFL intellectual property specialist examined photos of the jerseys and determined the stitching, patches and holographic stickers were knockoffs, according to court documents.
A Homeland Security agent interviewed a Sandy man who admitted to placing the order through nflshopjerseys.com but insisted he didn’t know the merchandise was counterfeit. The site offers deeply discounted authentic NFL jerseys, according to court documents.
The man provided the agent emails he had exchanged with the company and his purchase order showing he paid $18.50 for each jersey. In all, his bill came to $1,009, including shipping insurance and other fees. Court documents do not implicate the man in a crime.
The Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos also determined through a sample of five jerseys from the package that the merchandise was fake based on improper labeling, lack of authentic holograms and inferior craftsmanship. The combined value of those five jerseys alone, were they authentic, would have been $1,375, according to court records.
The content on five of the websites is identical, including misspellings, nonsensical shipping and return policies, poor photographs of merchandise, NCAA jerseys under the NFL tab and an explanation of how the company get easily get shipments through customs, court documents state.
Federal authorities intend to post notices on the websites saying ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, has seized them.
At least one of the sites was active as of Thursday afternoon, telling visitors to "Get Your Playoff Gear Now!" over a photo of NHL T-shirts and hats. The online order form appeared to be operational, offering buyer to buy by credit crad (sic) or Western Union.