U.S. to Give Seized Items to Katrina Victims

Times Staff Writer

The counterfeit goods fill more than 100 trucks. There are more than 6,600 blankets, 23,000 pairs of pants, 20,000 pairs of jeans, 87,000 belts, 400 cartons of toys and 15,000 pairs of shoes.

The federal government, which has been criticized for its slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is joining the list of countless charities, schools and businesses that are donating supplies to survivors.

The merchandise, at five warehouses near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, was seized by customs agents during raids or routine inspections of cargo, passengers and mail coming by sea or air. Most of the counterfeit goods are from Russia, China, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

“Some of this merchandise is very good quality,” said Michael Fleming, local spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We’re not giving rags to the victims by any stretch of the imagination.”


On Friday, customs workers began boxing the merchandise, some of which would have otherwise been destroyed. The trucks will head to Mississippi to be distributed to shelters.

Similar efforts are taking place at government warehouses in New York, Houston and Newark, N.J., officials said.

The government has previously donated seized goods. During the conflict in the Balkans, customs officials sent winter jackets.

“It’s a humanitarian effort on the government’s part,” said Carmen Deanda, seized property supervisor for U.S. Customs in Southern California and parts of Nevada.