USA-IT Brings Together Arizona Leaders to Find Solutions to the Rise of Illegal Trade


Today, United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT)—a coalition of more than 70 national and state brand enforcement experts, law enforcement agencies, academics, and leading business organizations—hosted an interactive summit in partnership with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry to find cooperative, innovative solutions to the rise of illegal trade in Arizona, including counterfeiting, smuggling, organized retail theft, and drug and human trafficking.

Illegal trade has been a growing threat to Arizona communities. Arizona has the 13th highest human trafficking cases in the United States. From 2014 to 2019, Arizona accounted for 17,514 occurrences of restricted prescription medications lost in transit – more than any other state. In 2017, federal law enforcement in Arizona confiscated more than $13 million in smuggled money, ranking third in the country.

Launched in 2021, USA-IT is working across 15 states including Arizona to empower local officials, law enforcement, and other leaders with new information and training programs and raise public awareness of the depth and severity of this crime.

“Building rapport with Arizona’s leading public and private sector leaders on this issue isn’t just timely, it is imperative for the protection of Arizona’s citizens and economy,” said USA-IT Spokesman and former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matt Albence. “Drug cartels and terror networks continue to adopt new forms of illegal trade to profit and expand their operations. Unfortunately, Arizona’s vast terrain and border with Mexico makes the state an attractive target for these criminals.”

Held in Phoenix, Arizona, summit attendees heard from keynote speaker, Major Damon Cecil, Chief of Staff for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, on the critical role industry and community leaders play in building successful cases against criminal networks.

“The Arizona Department of Public Safety is committed to providing the public and our officers with the information and resources they need to curb illegal trade. By working alongside the private sector and community organizations, we can enhance the toolkit of our law enforcement and protect Arizona businesses and families,” said Major Cecil.

During the summit, prominent state- and nationally-recognized business and security specialists convened for a panel discussion to explore the detriments of illegal trade on the Arizona economy. They also discussed legislative proposals that could undermine organized retail crime, and the importance of information-sharing between public and private sectors.

Moderated by Matt Albence, panelists and speakers included:

  • Buna George, Executive Director for The Greater Yuma Port Authority
  • David Lake, CEO for the Center on Shadow Economics
  • Kristin Reif, Director of Illicit Trade Prevention for Philip Morris International
  • Luis Ramirez, President of Ramirez Advisors Inter-National
  • Mike Bailey, General Counsel & Director of Legal Reform Programs for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Luis Ramirez emphasized during the panel discussion that, “Illegal trade adds tremendous costs to manufacturers, impacts supply chains and ends up in higher prices for consumers. It is hard to overstate the importance of efforts to prevent illegal trade and its devastating impacts.” David Lake added, “Building law enforcement’s capacity to detect and dismantle the criminal networks profiting from illicit trade is critical to disrupting the Shadow Economy. The Shadow Economy unfairly competes with legitimate commerce, destabilizing the economic engines that create opportunity and prosperity in our communities.”

For more information about USA-IT’s efforts to combat illegal trade and to get involved, visit or email us at

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About USA-IT United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) is a public- and private-sector partnership designed to help protect American security and prosperity from black-market criminals.