USA-IT and the Texas Association of Business Bring Together State Leaders to Discuss Combating the Rising Tide of Illegal Trade


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AUSTIN, October 11, 2022 – United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT), in partnership with the Texas Association of Business (TAB), today hosted a statewide summit examining the challenges posed by organized retail crime and myriad other interconnected crimes undermining Texas’ security, including counterfeiting, brand integrity, and the trafficking of drugs, illicit tobacco, and other contraband.

Former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf headlined today’s summit, delivering a powerful and timely keynote on the complexities of illegal trade and the many consequences this growing threat poses to our society. “No one individual, agency, or government can tackle this problem alone. Public and private sectors must work together and leverage one another’s assets and knowledge to root out illegal trade and prevent it from entering our communities, no matter its form,” stated Wolf.

The summit also featured two panels with participants who offered best practices and innovative solutions to further enhance cross-sector information-sharing and cooperation. Panelists and speakers included:

  • Alysa Erichs, USA-IT Spokesperson and former Acting Executive Associate Director for
    Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) (Moderator)
  • Glenn Hamer, President and CEO, Texas Association of Business
  • John McCord, Executive Director, Texas Retailers Association
  • Jeni Zuercher, Director, Global Brand Protection, Yeti
  • Craig Westemeier, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Business Development, The
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Steve Hunter, Director of Global Investigations, Walmart
  • Kevin Lawrence, Executive Director, Texas Municipal Police Association
  • Agent Stan Seto, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations
  • Rania Mankarious, CEO, Crime Stoppers of Houston

As one of the largest states in the nation, Texas shares 11 land ports of entry with Mexico, which are used to move vast amounts of illegal goods to the United States. Traffickers and other criminal organizations have a long history of smuggling everything from human beings to drugs to weapons.

In 2019, Texas experienced one of the greatest increases of the number of controlled substances lost-in-transit incidents. Texas also ranks second in the U.S. in human trafficking cases, totaling 6,877 cases since 2007. In 2019 alone, federal law enforcement in Texas seized over $23 million in smuggled currency, the third most in the nation. Last year, retail thefts in Texas totaled $3.8 billion and cost more than $300 million in state and local taxes.

Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious highlighted that organized retail crime remains a top priority for their organization. “As a leading non-profit dedicated to public safety and crime prevention, we believe that crime rings are not only a major threat to our communities and law enforcement, but also have a crippling effect on society. We remain committed to working on serious issues like these to help find solutions where needed.”

“Our members are increasingly encountering challenges related to organized retail crime. Coming together with retailers, law enforcement, and other partners combating complex retail crime issues demonstrates the urgency of this crisis for the retail sector in Texas, and we feel energized to double down on our efforts to enact change this upcoming legislative session,” said John McCord, Executive Director of Texas Retailers Association and a panelist at the event.

Kristin Reif, Director of Government Affairs for Philip Morris International (PMI), who provided closing remarks said, “Illicit tobacco costs Texas more than $300 million every year in lost tax revenues. That’s money that should be going to public services but instead is lost to criminals. These criminal organizations are not only dangerous, they’re smart—evolving their operations from street corners and back alleys to e-commerce, social media, and more. Whether it’s tobacco products, sneakers, purses, or toothpaste, criminals will traffic anything that earns them a dollar, no matter who it hurts.”

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
Launched in 2021, USA-IT is a coalition of more than 85 national and state brand enforcement experts, law enforcement agencies, academics, and leading business organizations working across 15 states including Texas 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.

Sam Dashiell
U.S. Communications, Philip Morris International
T. +1 (202) 480 1617