(WSVN) - Every year millions of counterfeit goods slip into the country. Some of them pose a serious risk to health and safety. 7’s Kevin Ozebek was given rare access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations dedicated to “Finding Fakes.”
Inside this restricted area, Officer Pizarro’s eyes are glued to an X-ray machine.
Officer Pizarro, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: “We inspect 100% of all mail that comes through this facility.”
He is part of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection team that scans every single piece of international mail that arrives through Miami International Airport.
Officer Pizarro: “So I’ll open this one up.”
Any package suspected of holding counterfeit goods, Officer Pizarro inspects by hand.
Kevin Ozebek: “Every single day, do you have packages that you flag to inspect?”
Officer Pizarro: “All day, every day. So we’ll take a look inside to see what we have.”
This package looked unusual through the X-ray, so he opens it.
At first he sees just jewelry inside, but Officer Pizarro keeps digging.
Officer Pizarro: “And then, here we go, so we got more stuff in here.”
Hidden inside, he finds what appear to be fake IDs.
His experience finding false documents is coming in handy, especially now. Just last month, Officer Pizarro found counterfeit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine cards at a Miami-Dade mail facility.
Officer Pizarro: “I guess there’s people out there that want to use these things.”
Thousands of bogus vaccine cards have been seized by CBP officers across the country. Many are riddled with misspellings, a tell-tale sign they’re counterfeit.
The cards found here in Miami-Dade are missing the “i” in vaccine.
Zach Mann, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: “A vaccine card that’s counterfeit. What’s the use of that? A counterfeit vaccine card is most likely going to be used by someone who is portraying themselves as someone who has the vaccine and doesn’t, and is ultimately putting friends, family and co-workers at risk.”
Since the pandemic, CBP officers have also found more than 12.7 million counterfeit masks.
All in all, last year officers seized 1.3 billion dollars worth of counterfeit goods. Seventy-nine percent of those items came from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Officer Cruz, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: “It is a daily occurrence. We find counterfeits all over the place.”
Counterfeits like these “Rolex watches.”
Officer Cruz: “These are all Rolex counterfeit that were seized.”
From ritzy rip-off watches, to designer swimsuits and shoes that are actually duds, Officer Cruz showed us a slew of fakes found right here in South Florida.
These are forged labels for car parts.
Kevin Ozebek: “So, if you did not intercept these, these would be put on counterfeit car parts and potentially go into our vehicles here in South Florida?”
Officer Cruz: “And pose a health and safety risk to our people.”
And look at this.
Officer Cruz: “This is a counterfeit U.S. Marshals badge.”
Kevin Ozebek: “I mean, that could be a federal officer impersonator you just stopped there?”
Officer Cruz: “Yes, sir.”
Over at the Port of Miami, CBP officers search the massive cargo containers for fakes.
Officer Garrido, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, PortMiami: “Every day is different. We got a lot of different commodities here in Miami.”
But right now, Officer Garrido has his eyes on shipments of bikes that just arrived into the country.
Officer Garrido: “We’re looking for the battery compartments and the batteries that come in those bicycles, because in the past we have found a lot of these batteries are counterfeit.”
His goal is to make sure these electric bikes aren’t safety hazards.
Officer Garrido: “That’s our goal, is to stop anything where we find a violation so that we can prevent possible tragedies.”
So whether it arrives in South Florida from the ocean or the air, is in a huge container or a tiny package, know there is an entire team dedicated to the mission of finding fakes.
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