Federal agents have seized a record amount of counterfeit merchandise in recent weeks as a part of what they're calling "Operation Red Zone." In the Bay Area, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of fake NFL gear has been rounded up.

Former Oakland Raiders linebacker and Super Bowl champion Jeff Barnes says the NFL has such a tight grip on its merchandise and property the classic "Mean Joe Green" commercial scene would have never happened in real life.

"They'd watch the guys and make sure they put them back, go through the list, yeah, they wanted those jerseys back," Barnes said.

Which is why, he says, there's very little tolerance for the sale of unlicensed counterfeit NFL merchandise. The Super Bowl, however, is fueling that demand.

"Here in San Francisco, and from talking to our counterparts in other field offices, there's more of this than anywhere else," Homeland Security investigator David Prince said.

Just this past week, Homeland Security and U.S. customs say they confiscated $300,000 worth of unlicensed NFL merchandise in San Francisco. Nationwide, more than $13 million in fake merchandise has been nabbed this season. It's made mostly in China.

"Well most of these on the street are selling from $15-$30," Prince said. "Retail, a jersey could go for as much as $100."

One man on Market Street in San Francisco says he makes about $5 for every counterfeit shirt he sells.

"It's a chance to make some money, you know what I mean," he said. "At least I'm not robbing and stealing people's purses and stuff, that's what people need to be worrying about."

The NFL college merchandise store on Pier 39, says it's not the street hustlers who are putting a dent in their profits, it's the pirate Internet sites. As part of the sting, six Internet sites have been shut down, but authorities say they keep popping back up.

"A friend of mine saw a jersey with Jerry Rice and it has a Super Bowl patch, 47, on it, and it's not available out there by the actual manufacturer," store manager Edward Lao said.

Authorities say if the 49ers win, they expect to be even busier chasing down fake gear.

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Tags:
san francisco 49ers, super bowl, crime, fashion, nfl, alan wang
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