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Tennessee man charged with trafficking, selling fake airbags

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Collision Repair | Legal
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A Nashville man has been arrested and charged with trafficking and selling counterfeit airbags, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

Mohammed Al-Abadi, 51, was indicted in the Western District of Tennessee after federal agents recovered more than 2,000 fake airbags and parts from Al-Abadi’s home and business, according to a press release.

It’s the latest case related to the sale of counterfeit airbags, which came as lawmakers, automakers, and federal agencies continue to warn the public about the dangers of driving with non-authentic supplementary restraint systems.

Al-Adabi’s arrest followed a probe by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

“The diligent and extensive investigative work by our special agents led to the discovery of the sale of fraudulent, counterfeit airbags, sold by bypassing regulatory oversight meant to keep dangerous and ineffective products out of the U.S. market,” said HSI Nashville Special Agent in Charge Rana Saoud. “The defendant will now have to answer for his alleged criminal actions that put consumers’ lives at risk.”

Information presented in court indicates Al-Abadi imported fake airbags from China from October 2019 through January 2021, assembled them, and sold them on eBay to “unsuspecting” repair shops and customers.

“The alleged actions of the defendant have placed unsuspecting motorists and the general public in harm’s way,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz. “Vehicle airbags are subject to strict quality standards which must be followed to ensure passenger safety. The defendant’s alleged actions undermined the efforts of the automobile industry and regulatory bodies to keep the public safe.”

It’s not clear whether any of the airbags sold were involved in an accident, nor is it known how federal agents became aware of the alleged scheme.

Todd Damiani, a Department of Transportation special agent, noted that counterfeit airbags are not regulated or tested to ensure they meet federal standards. He said they have the potential to lead to “grave consequences.”

“The indictment and arrest handed down demonstrates the continuous coordination with our federal and prosecutorial partners to curtail the flow of these dangerous and illegal automobile products into the United States,” Damiani said.

If found guilty, Al-Abadi faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a $2 million fine for trafficking in the counterfeit airbags. He also faces up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for having hazardous materials delivered by air.

Earlier this year, a Philadelphia mechanic pleaded guilty to trafficking hazardous airbags into the U.S. from China and selling them to unsuspecting customers.

According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, Emilano Rodriguez received airbags from China from January 2017 through Oct. 30, 2019. He admitted to installing the defective parts in salvaged vehicles, which were then resold to consumers.

Previous ICE and HSI investigations prompted the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a consumer safety advisory in January.

“We expect all motor vehicle equipment to meet federal safety standards – and air bags in particular play a central role in keeping drivers and passengers safe in the event of a crash,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “That’s why it’s critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their air bag.”

Meanwhile, in Oregon, a bill to prohibit the manufacturing, importing, distribution, or sale of counterfeit, nonfunctional, or non-federally compliant airbags has passed the state’s House and Senate.

Senate Bill 256, now headed to  Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk for signature, would also make it illegal to sell or lease vehicles containing airbags that don’t meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.


Featured image: iStock/Douglas Rissing

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