Washington, DC - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale told attendees at an anti-counterfeiting conference that identifying and preventing the theft of intellectual property (IP) and dismantling criminal organizations that engage in counterfeiting operations are major priorities for the agency.
The remarks were delivered in a keynote speech at a two-day training session, hosted by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and Underwriters Laboratories, that focused on piracy and counterfeiting issues faced by Latin America. The meeting was held June 22-23 in Miami, Florida, and included participation from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske and Deputy White House IP Enforcement Coordinator Philippa Scarlett.
“Within the law-enforcement community, it is important that we come together regularly to share experiences and learn from each other; whether it’s talking about the investigative techniques that are working well, or simply shedding new light on emerging threats,” said Deputy Director Ragsdale. “Training sessions such as this also give us an opportunity to share key information and further enhance best practices.”
Throughout the past year, ICE has increased collaboration with Latin America to prevent IP theft and tackle trade-based crimes. Last summer, ICE attaches stationed in South America teamed with police authorities to conduct Operation Flyaway, an effort to crackdown on wildlife trafficking, and last November ICE provided support to South American countries participating in Operation In Our Sites to identify and seize copyright infringing websites.
Earlier this year, ICE coordinated with Mexican authorities on Operation Team Player, an initiative to target the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-related merchandise, and in April, ICE representatives traveled to Panama City, Panama, to participate in briefings on the World Customs Organization-led Operation Seascape, which focused on the trafficking and transshipment of counterfeit automotive parts through Central and South America.
This week, Deputy Director Ragsdale joined the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay and a delegation of customs officials from both nations to sign an agreement establishing a new Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) that will combat trade-based money laundering in Paraguay, working alongside already established TTUs in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. These units complement the work of multiple ICE-led Transnational Criminal Investigative Units (TCIU) operation throughout Central and South America.
The TCIUs enhance the host country’s ability to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in transnational criminal activity that threaten the stability and national security of the region. Last year these established international partnerships resulted in more than $12 million in counterfeit seizures.
In Fiscal Year 2015, collaboration between ICE and CBP, with support from the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, led to more than 28,000 seizures worth an estimated $1.35 billion. The interagency IP enforcement resulted in 538 arrests, 339 indictments and 357 convictions.
Founded in 2000, the IPR Center – formally codified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 – is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization devoted solely to combating product counterfeiting and piracy. What began with a handful of companies seeking intellectual property protection has grown to a membership base of over 250 in the past three decades. The IACC is a member-driven organization that is comprised of a cross-section of business and industry - from automotive, apparel, luxury goods and pharmaceuticals, to food, software and entertainment. The IACC's membership also includes law firms, investigative and product security firms, government agencies and intellectual property associations who are committed to fighting counterfeiting and piracy.