The City of London Police, working with detectives from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), have busted a Hertfordshire crime ring suspected of importing, exporting and selling counterfeit Cisco hardware.
The force swooped on two men, aged 36 and 35, at their homes in Sawbridgeworth and Birchanger, and a third man, aged 38, at his place of work in nearby Bishops Stortford, on 29 April.
The trio were suspected of having shifted in excess of $10m (£6.56m) worth of fake networking equipment through a company website and telesales operation.
The raid came after US Customs and Border Protection intercepted 40 shipments of suspected counterfeit Cisco products being shipped to the US between December 2012 and April 2015. US authorities and Cisco’s Global Brand Protection Team assisted in the investigation.
A search of the suspects’ homes and business address turned up equipment with an estimated street value of $1m (£656,000).
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Detective inspector Mick Dodge from PIPCU commented: “Cisco products are used by organisations worldwide to underpin their IT infrastructures.
“Businesses need to have confidence in their supply chains and be aware of the risks that counterfeit products can have on their networks, potentially compromising integrity and functionality, including significant network outages.”
Cisco equipment has frequently been the target of organised piracy before now.
The advice to customers in general, particularly those procuring for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is to avoid equipment where the price seems too good to be true, avoid buying products from eBay or other grey market sources, check holograms and documentation thoroughly, and, most importantly, check serial numbers against Cisco's database, which is freely available online.
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit was established in 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office and is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police. The unit's successes include the arrests of multiple people suspected of leaking movies and uploading content, and the closure of more than 2,000 websites selling fake luxury goods.
In 2014, the unit requested the suspension of more than 160,000 bank accounts, phone numbers and websites suspected to have links to organised fraud. By its own estimates, this means it has prevented over £470m worth of future potential fraud.