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Feds shut down websites selling fake goods

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Mike Desmond/WBFO News
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Washington celebrated Cyber Monday with major busts around the country of websites selling fake merchandise.

Homeland Security Investigations, the Justice Department, and European intellectual property agencies have seized 132 websites selling fake merchandise. The websites also acquire people's credit card numbers and other personal data.

Locally, HSI and U.S. Attorney William Hochul say 15 of those websites were in this area, with many selling knock-offs from China of New Era caps. They say they have arrested a Cheektowaga man who was making and selling phony Microsoft computer software.

Hochul says along with protecting merchandise and intellectual property, there are also health issues at play.

"Sometimes it might be counterfeit merchandise. Sometimes those products, in addition to being of inferior quality, could pose dangers, especially in the case of counterfeit pharmaceuticals," Hochul said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Special agent in charge of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations James Spero says there are often shady groups behind the websites.

"In many investigations that we've conducted in the past, there has been a direct link to websites selling counterfeit products and criminal organizations, drug cartels, or Russian organized crime," Spero said.

Hochul says these annual busts on Cyber Monday protect jobs in this country against fake items from China. This is the third year the agencies have performed Project Cyber Monday and Project Transatlantic.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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