More than 14,800 fake Nike shoes were seized in a counterfeiting operation after authorities at the nation's largest seaport examined two shipping containers that arrived from China.
Several things about the Air Jordan knockoffs caught the attention of Customs and Border Protection agents at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach. For example, the loosely attached swoosh symbols, a globally recognized Nike trademark that appears to have been shoddily stitched onto the sides of the high-tops.
The counterfeit kicks were discovered during an enforcement exam when 14,806 pairs arrived in two shipping containers that had been declared as "napkins" in an attempt to pass the illegal cargo through the nation's busiest port. Import experts and the trademark owner confirmed the shoes violated several protected designs and trademarks for various Air Jordan styles, including the iconic red, black and white high-top.
If real, the shoes would carry a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $2.24 million.
The shoes were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in cooperation with the Apparel, Footwear and Textiles Center of Excellence.
The real Nike shoes, featuring retro designs dating to the 1980s, are highly sought by collectors and sneaker enthusiasts. They can sell for $1,500 to $2,000 online, an attractive market for fraudulent sellers.
"Counterfeit brand-name shoes is a multi-million dollar criminal industry," said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Port Director of the LA/Long Beach Seaport. "The trafficking of these items is extremely lucrative and becomes more profitable in markets involving successful and popular products."
The illegal goods trade is linked to smuggling and other criminal activity, and it's often used to fund criminal operations, according to the CBP.