US Customs agents show $8M in counterfeits seized at CVG airport

HEBRON, Ky.  — A recent bust at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport shows how locals may end up buying low quality counterfeit, and possibly dangerous counterfeit, goods.

Media cameras were allowed inside the customs offices at CVG recently to get a look at some of the thousands of counterfeit items seized in recent weeks at the airport, before they were removed for disposal.

The seizures netted counterfeit Apple and Samsung products, Nike and Adidas gym shoes, fake Cartier and Gucci jewelry, and all sorts of designer accessories, enough to make a Kardashian blush.

US Customs and Border Protection Branch Chief Eric Zizelman said the haul included dozens of big-name brands.

“We found purses, handbags, and wallets,” he said, “claiming to be from Louis Vuitton, Coach, and more.”

On one table alone that we inspected were tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, even World Series and Super Bowl rings, that could net $5,000 each online.

“This is a New York Yankees ring,” he said.

But it is all fake.

Customs does not want to say where the flights originated, or where the merchandise was headed, but says their recent haul would have been worth $8 million if it was real.

The risk with buying knock-off products

Zizelman says buyers who might have purchased these products at flea markets or online would have ended up disappointed, thinking they were getting the real thing at deep discount.

“You are not going to get the same quality product as if you bought a genuine product,” he said, showing us designer purses with low-quality leather and cheap plastic zippers.

He says counterfeit electronics often fail in no time at all, have terrible sound quality, or are dangerous.

“You could have some sort of safety risk with that,” he said.

That’s what happened to Katie Skerchock of Cincinnati who a couple of years ago unknowingly purchased a counterfeit iPhone charger that almost set her house on fire.

“This is a fire hazard, I mean who knows,” she told us, showing us photos of scorch marks on her wall.

Could you spot a counterfeit?

Sometimes it is easy to spot a counterfeit product, such as with the seized Apple AirPods that have no Apple logo on the box, and just say “Air 2.”

Or knock-off Nike basketball shoes with poor stitching and little padding inside.

Other times it is much tougher, as with Samsung ear buds Customs seized that have all the correct logos.

Zizelman says fakes often slip through by shipping in generic boxes, or boxes labeled with another product on the outside.

He showed us some no-name headphone boxes, but when you open them, you find Samsung Galaxy-labeled products inside.

To protect yourself, he says:

  • Beware designer items online and at flea markets at prices that seem too low.
  • Check an online seller’s reviews carefully: reviewers will often post that they bought something that may have been a fake.
  • With clothing and purses, check stitching, zippers and fabric/leather quality.
  • Check the return policy, in case the item arrives and you suspect it is a counterfeit.

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