ERLANGER (KT) – While U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers quite often deal with fake jewelry and other designer goods, they also uncover shipments of fake medical supplies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBP officers at the Port of Cincinnati office, located in Erlanger, Ky., recently seized 450 boxes of counterfeit 3M surgical masks. Each box contained 240 masks, making a total of 108,000 counterfeit items. The boxes were imported on 16 pallets, enough to fill an entire sea container.

The masks were destined to a logistics company in Montreal, Quebec, and would have had a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $137,160 had they been genuine, although their declared value was only $720.

Although the packaging was marked with “Made in the USA,” the merchandise was imported from a logistics company in Hong Kong. Other indicators of fraudulent activity included a “Peru Seal,” which is not a legitimate 3M seal, and the Model No. 1860S, Lot No. B20522, all features specifically noted by 3M to be counterfeit. Additionally, 3M does not manufacture those respirators in China. The masks were ultimately determined to be counterfeit by CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise.

Legitimate surgical respirators are critical for the healthcare industry, and 3M publishes alerts to help educate the public about the potential for respirator fraud and inflated pricing. Throughout the past year, criminal enterprises exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to sell counterfeit, unapproved and unsafe PPE and pharmaceuticals; but CBP says they have remained focused on their mission to protect consumers, reduce trading costs and promote a level playing field for American businesses.

“Counterfeiting is no longer confined to street vendors and flea markets,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “The past year has strained our supply chains on many levels, leading e-commerce to be invaluable to supply consumers with needed goods.