Operation 'Fake Sweep' Nets Phony Super Bowl Gear

Fort Wayne Store Raided By Federal Agents

A surprise sweep at a Fort Wayne novelty store netted bags of counterfeit NFL gear days before the Super Bowl.

Operation Fake Sweep, led by federal agents and Homeland Security investigators, targeted the Off the Wall store at Glenbrook Square Mall.

Special Section: Super Bowl

More than 400 pieces of unlicensed NFL-related merchandise were removed from store shelves, investigators said.

"We can't be everywhere, but consumer beware. We are out there. We are watching the importation of counterfeit merchandise," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the operation. "So you may get by today or tomorrow, but we will find you."

In Indianapolis, the city's contract with the NFL only allows authorized stores, not street vendors, to sell authentic merchandise.

Indiana-based Lids employs 6,000 people in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and counts on the government to stop the sale of the knockoffs to protect jobs and millions in investments.

"I think to buy properly licensed products is the right thing to do for everyone," said John DeWaal, Lids' director of marketing. "It maintains the business the way it should be maintained."

A message left with Off the Wall was not returned Monday.

At last year's Super Bowl, counterfeit merchandise valued at a total of nearly $4 million was seized by federal authorities.

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