'Call Christina' takes you to frontlines of consumer protection

CBP specialists check incoming cargo for unsafe products

MIAMI – The Call Christina team is offering you a rare look at the federal officers who work to make sure unsafe and dangerous products don’t make it to a store near you.

On a stormy afternoon, while being pelted with rain, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers at Miami’s Seaport scan incoming cargo.

On that particular day they were checking each container coming off a vessel to verify that the product inside matches what was written on the manifest.  

"That this commodity is what's on paper," explained CBP supervisor William Prado, "and, of course, look for inconsistencies."

They check for false walls or break-away components that can be used to hide drugs or guns.

Using multiple screening techniques like x-ray imaging and radiation detection, CBP targets high risk shipments for chemical, biological, radiological, traditional weapons and explosives.

"We are looking for narcotics," Prado explained to Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez while the pair stood in heavy rain. "We are looking for anything that is terrorist-related."

CBP specialists are also looking for counterfeit and dangerous products. Keeping unsafe products from store shelves starts right here.

"The men and women of CBP have many important roles. One such role is ensuring that products entering the U.S. are safe," Dylan DeFrancisci said.

"This is the last line of defense," explained Prado. "Once it goes through us, it hits the markets. It is on the road."

During the holidays, CBP has partnered with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure dangerous toys don't end up under the Christmas tree.

"Proactive port surveillance, strong toy standards, and educational efforts create a safer holiday toy shopping experience for consumers by keeping dangerous products off store shelves," said former CPSC Chairman Inez Moore Tenenbaum. "Ultimately, our goal is to protect our most vulnerable population -- kids."

Related Link: CBP Warn Consumers Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

Last summer, the CBP in Miami seized more than $11 million in high-fashion counterfeit handbags. They were knock-offs you might have paid top dollar for thinking they were the real thing, only to learn later you'd been ripped off.

In June, CBP officers with the Miami Seaport Trade Enforcement Team seized thousands of counterfeit watches worth more than $2 million that were being shipped from China and were destined for Florida.

"Counterfeiters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts, and CBP OFO officers here at the Miami Seaport take great pride in protecting Americans from low quality and unsafe products," said Miami Seaport Port Director Diane Sabatino.

China and Hong Kong were the top source countries for counterfeit goods seized by CBP in fiscal year 2014, based on Intellectual Property Rights seizures by both CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

On a typical day, CBP officers around the country seized counterfeit goods totaling more than $3.4 million. In fiscal year 2014, the CBP made more than 23,000 seizures of counterfeit goods worth an estimated $1.2 billion.

Just last month, CBP officers assigned to the Miami TET seized hundreds of hoverboards that arrived here from China containing batteries that were deemed unauthorized and therefore counterfeit.

Federal regulators believe the batteries could be why some are catching fire and are keeping a close eye on imports of the popular product that has been a source of dozens of fires.

"CBP officers and agents also played a critical counter-narcotics role, resulting in the seizure or disruption of more than 3.3 million pounds of narcotics in FY 2015," according to the 2015 fiscal year border security report. "In addition, the agency seized more than $129 million in unreported currency through targeted enforcement operations."

In fiscal year 2015, CBP officers at ports of entry arrested 8,246 people wanted for serious crimes, including murder, rape, assault and robbery.

Consumers who suspect that a business or Internet site is trafficking in counterfeit goods should call 1-866-477-2060 or email IPRCenter@dhs.gov

If you are aware of or suspect a company or individual of infringing your trademark or copyright, please report the trade violation to e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT. Consumers may also report incidents to the Consumer Products Safety Commission via SaferProducts.gov.