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Thousands of fake Nike sneakers worth $2.2 million have been seized at seaports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, authorities said Wednesday.
Nearly 15,000 pairs were found in a shipment from China, hidden in containers labeled “towels”, according to a press release from US Customs and Border Protection.
The containers carried Nike Air Jordans and Air Max shoes, including special-edition models and typically costing up to $2,000 online.
“These special-edition Nike and retro designs are highly coveted by collectors and athletic shoe enthusiasts,” CBP said. “Consumers who buy online are likely to encounter fraudulent sellers.
Authorities said the trade in fake sneakers often funds criminal enterprises that smuggle the shoes across borders.
“Counterfeit designer shoes are a multi-million dollar criminal industry,” CBP port director LaFonda Sutton-Burke said in a written statement. “The traffic of these articles is extremely lucrative and becomes more profitable in markets involving successful and popular products.”
China has been the top manufacturer of legitimate and counterfeit sneakers for decades, with the country producing around 86% of the world’s counterfeit products, according to a 2016 report by the American Chamber of Commerce.
The fake sneaker industry has proliferated on online marketplaces and social media platforms, the Los Angeles Times reported. Many buyers contact sellers through chat rooms and e-commerce sites.
“Transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from American intellectual property by selling their counterfeit and pirated products not only in the United States but around the world,” said Joseph Macias, chief of Los Angeles Homeland Security Investigations.
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