By Frank Pingue
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Federal authorities and the National Football League have seized $19.5 million worth of fake sports memorabilia as part of a year-long crackdown on counterfeit goods, they said on Thursday.
Authorities said over 325,000 counterfeit items, including jerseys, hats and Super Bowl-related merchandise, were seized in an operation that began after last year's Super Bowl and focused on international shipments of counterfeit goods entering the United States.
"Counterfeiting is not a game," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana. "It is most certainly not a victimless crime either.
"Whether it's the child in Southeast Asia working in deplorable conditions, or local stores going out of business, intellectual property theft is a very real crime with very real victims."
Most of the knockoffs were manufactured in China and were brought to the United States through usual smuggling networks, according to authorities involved in 'Operation Team Player.'
Last year, authorities said 202,000 pieces of counterfeit league merchandise, valued at more than $21.6 million, were seized in the lead-up to the NFL's title game in New Jersey.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)