Grey market in Cincinnati busted

Wess Haubrich
The AirPodMoneyControl

The value of the illicit goods was $1,336,628

Cincinnati Police recently busted a multi-million-dollar scam hawking all manner of fake items, but especially Apple AirPods, port of call Brownsville, Texas. From here, it was not far at all to find who the shipment was addressed to. This equaled 5000 regular AirPods and 1372 AirPods Pro.

The suspects would have allegedly been sitting on $1.3 million dollars of fake pods at the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). The return address was in China.

After seizing the counterfeit goods, the Centers for Excellence and Expertise took over. Their only job was to verify that the AirPods definitely were fakes. The Centers are staffed by Customs and Border Protection people who are specialists in finding all manner of counterfeit goods in a number of venues and spots in this sprawling grey market.

So, how do you solve this kind of black market activity? You start by making sure your terms are correct. This is not black-market activity strictly speaking. It is a GREY-MARKET because it’s a mix of white-market (fully legal) and black-market activity (fully illegal activity).

Counterfeit goods and the process of smuggling them into the US are largely considered grey-market activity because the goods aren’t necessarily illegal in and of themselves – though the way they are smuggled in is definitely not legal.

CBP seized 26,503 shipments in 2020 alone. The total cash value (the MSRP) on those shipments? Around $1.3 billion. China remains the top country shipping fake goods to the US.

To report suspected counterfeits, visit CBP’s online e-Allegations portal or call 1-800-BE-ALERT. More information about counterfeit goods is available on CBP’s Fake Goods, Real Dangers website and

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact:


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