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Memphis man pleads guilty to trafficking counterfeit airbags from China

Retired mechanic assembled counterfeit airbags with imported parts and sold them to repair shops and individuals on eBay

Memphis, Tenn.—A retired auto mechanic in Memphis pled guilty in federal court yesterday to trafficking counterfeit airbags and causing a dangerous good or forbidden explosive to be placed onto a commercial aircraft. United States Attorney Kevin G. Ritz announced the guilty plea last week.

According to information presented in court, Mohammed Al-Abadi, 51, imported counterfeit motor vehicle airbag parts from China and assembled the parts to make counterfeit airbags. Al-Abadi then sold the fake airbags on eBay to unsuspecting automobile repair shops and individual customers for prices ranging from $100 to $725 each.

On Dec. 8, 2020, a shipment of counterfeit airbag parts ordered by Al-Abadi was intercepted by agents from the United States Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Further investigation determined that Al-Abadi sold approximately 533 counterfeit airbags. Additionally, Al-Abadi shipped at least one counterfeit airbag by airplane without proper hazardous material classifications, labeling, or packaging in violation of the Department of Transportation’s hazardous material regulations.

China has been identified as one of the largest exporters of counterfeit commodities, including counterfeit airbags. In this case, federal agents recovered more than 2,000 counterfeit airbags and parts from Al-Abadi’s residence and place of business. Al-Abadi is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Mark S. Norris on June 11. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $2,000,000, and three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

The Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council, Inc. (A2C2), a voice in the fight against counterfeit automotive parts, is urging eBay to halt the sale of all supplemental restraint system (SRS) airbags and components on, calling it the only effective way of preventing the sale of dangerous counterfeit airbags on the site.

“Would you take a chance to save a few dollars to buy a cheaper CF part, if your savings will cost the life of a driver and your freedom,” asked Jon Ruttencutter, A2C2 Program Manager, in an email to Aftermarket Matters Weekly. He also noted that trafficking in counterfeit airbags/airbag parts resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of 18 USC 2320(b)(2)(A) and trafficking in counterfeit airbags/airbag parts resulting in death, in violation of 18 USC 2320(b)(2)(B). The 18 USC 2320(b)(2)(A) charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000,000 and the 18 USC 2320(b)(2)(A) charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison and a fine up to $5,000,000.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that frontal air bags have saved more than 50,000 lives over a 30-year period, according to a U.S. government’s report, 2023 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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