Customs and Border Protection is seeing an increase in items other than illegal immigrants and drugs being smuggled into Texas from Mexico, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Agents are now averaging an amazing 66 seizures of counterfeit items every day, with the average value of each seizure up to $71,000.
Rick Pauza of the Customs Service in Laredo says among the most popular items for smugglers are knock off purses, watches, and movies.
"We're kind of known for thugs, bugs, and drugs, but people don't realize that we also enforce intellectual property laws," Pauza said.
"Thugs, bugs, and drugs" is a phrased used to describe the Customs Service's key duty of keeping criminals, illegal drugs, and contaminated agricultural items out of the country.
Pauza says the number of counterfeit items has increased just in the last year, as Mexican criminal gangs look for alternative ways to make money as illegal immigration is down and their marijuana smuggling business is facing competition from legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
"We had a significant seizure of counterfeit watches," he said. "It was an $83 million seizure."
He says knockoff perfumes, fake designer purses and shoes, and even illegally copies movies are making their way into the U.S.
"What we tend to see here in Texas are seizures involving clothing, handbags, leather goods and perfumes."
Even though chasing down a load of phony Armanis may not sound a sexy as fighting cocaine and heroin coming into the country, Pauza says this new wave of criminal activity is nothing to sneeze at. He says counterfeit goods seizures last year totaled $1.74 billion, up nearly a half billion dollars from the previous year.
Officials say the knock offs are bound for flea markets, illegal storefront stalls, any place they can make a buck.
"These products are not only unsafe and dangerous to consumers, they also pose a threat to the economic security of our country," said Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.