132 online counterfeit sites seized in Cyber Monday blitz

WASHINGTON Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:00am IST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and European authorities seized 132 domain names in a counterfeit goods crackdown linked to Cyber Monday, the online bargain day, the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

ICE agents seized 101 domain names in the United States and 31 were taken over by officers in Britain, Romania, Belgium, France and Denmark and by Europol, the European Police Office, ICE Director John Morton said.

The sites, many linked to organized crime, were selling fake goods that ranged from National Football League jerseys and Nike Inc (NKE.N) shoes to Adobe Systems Inc (ADBE.O) software, he said.

"There is much money to be made out there duping consumers and that is what is going on," Morton said on a conference call.

Investigations are ongoing and more sites will be seized in coming days.

In the United States, 41 rights owners' merchandise was being sold on the seized sites, Morton said.

ICE said in a statement that one U.S. arrest had been made.

The crackdown marks the third year that ICE has targeted websites selling counterfeit goods on Cyber Monday, the online shopping spree. It is the first time the agency has carried out the operation with European police.

The Cyber Monday seizures raise the total number of U.S. sites taken over to 1,630 since ICE began its anti-counterfeit campaign in June 2010.

PayPal accounts identified with the sites and holding a total of more than $175,000 are being targeted for seizure, the ICE statement said.

Morton put the scale of online piracy in the billions of dollars. Much of the online counterfeiting is in China and other parts of Asia, and U.S. authorities are working with China on the problem, he said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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