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Counterfeit airbags sold on eBay put drivers at risk, feds say. Man is arrested

Customers who bought airbags from a seller on eBay had no idea they were potentially in danger — because the airbags were counterfeit, federal prosecutors said.

A man in Memphis, Tennessee, was caught importing airbag parts from China, assembling the parts and selling the airbags to car repair shops and individual customers online, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.

As a result, the 51-year-old was arrested and indicted on charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods and causing the criminal transportation of hazardous materials by air carrier, the office announced in a May 17 news release.

“Counterfeit airbags are not regulated or tested to ensure they meet federal safety standards, and when transported and used by unsuspecting consumers, they can be unsafe and lead to potentially grave consequences,” Todd Damiani, the Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General’s southern region, said in a statement.

McClatchy News contacted the man’s attorney for comment on May 18 and didn’t immediately receive a response.

He’s accused of selling the fraudulent airbags over eBay from Oct. 1, 2019, through Jan. 12, 2021, prosecutors said.

When federal agents raided his Memphis home and business, Z Tire Shop & Auto, they found more than 2,000 counterfeit airbags and parts, according to information presented in court.

Specifically, they found assembled Acura, Nissan, Honda, Lexus, Toyota and Ford airbags, among airbag covers, brackets and inflators and other items at his home, an indictment shows.

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

How many counterfeit airbags the man sold and how much money he made in selling them, wasn’t specified by prosecutors.

If convicted on the charge of trafficking counterfeit goods, he could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and face a $2 million fine, the release said.

As for the charge of causing the transportation of hazardous materials by air carrier, he could be sentenced up to five years in prison and potentially be ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, according to officials.

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