WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), law enforcement agencies from Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom, and the European Police Office (Europol) seized 132 domain names today that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.
The 132 domain names seized are part of Project Cyber Monday 3 and Project Transatlantic. These websites were set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods as part of the holiday shopping season. The operation was coordinated by the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C.
This is the third year that the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products online in conjunction with Cyber Monday. An iteration of Operation In Our Sites (IOS), Cyber Monday 3 seized 101 websites and yielded one arrest. Additionally, recognizing the global nature of Internet crime, this year the IPR Center partnered with Europol, who, through its member countries, executed coordinated seizures of foreign-based top-level domains such as .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic and resulted in 31 domain name seizures.
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center," said ICE Director John Morton. "Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win."
The IPR Center and Europol received leads from various trademark holders regarding the infringing websites. Those leads were disseminated to eight investigating HSI field offices in Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, El Paso, Newark, San Antonio, San Diego and Ventura (Calif.) and to the investigating Europol member countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the United Kingdom.
"Europol became a member of the IPR Center this year and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes," said Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol. "IPR theft is not a harmless and victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks and it undermines our economy."
The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their Web browsers will now find a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.
In addition to the domain name seizures, officials identified PayPal accounts utilized by the infringing websites. Proceeds received through the identified PayPal accounts, in excess of $175,000, are currently being targeted for seizure by the investigating HSI field offices.
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