Lurking among the thousands of baseball fans in town for the World Series are more than two dozen officials who spent the week in area shops and streets on the lookout for counterfeit merchandise.
Those scouring for fake Cardinals and Rangers hats, T-shirts and jerseys are employees of Major League Baseball Properties' licensing group, which travels to major baseball events to ensure that products for sale are licensed by the league.
"My message to the counterfeiters is, 'Watch out, we are on to you,'" said Ethan Orlinsky, senior vice president and general counsel for Major League Baseball Properties. He traveled to St. Louis from New York this week for the busiest time of the year for fake MLB merchandise: the World Series.
On nights during postseason games, St. Louis police officers accompany league officials and issue citations and make arrests, if warranted.
"We have a detail of undercover officers, accompanied by Major League Baseball, and they will address anyone they find with counterfeit merchandise," said the department's public information manager Schron Jackson.
MLB also works with federal agencies such as the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of Homeland Security, to investigate whether the sellers are linked to larger counterfeit rings.
Just before the first pitch Wednesday night, two MLB attorneys spotted vendors hawking fake goods a few blocks from Busch Stadium. One vendor at 800 North Tucker Boulevard had some 300 baseball caps, while a vendor at Fourth Street and Chouteau Avenue had 800 T-shirts and baseball caps.
Police confiscated more than 1,100 counterfeit items from those vendors. The seizure was larger than the amount confiscated during a single night of most World Series games, Orlinsky said. Federal authorities are investigating the two cases; no arrests were made.
Each year, MLB officials participate in the seizure of 600,000 pieces of counterfeit goods, which heats up during postseason games. The league estimates many times the amount seized are sold to unsuspecting customers. During last year's postseason, the league confiscated counterfeit merchandise with a value of $120,000.
Members of the licensing group will travel to Texas this weekend when the series games are played there.
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