Ex-mechanic pleads guilty to fake airbag sales

A retired mechanic in Memphis has pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking counterfeit airbags and causing a dangerous good or forbidden explosive to be placed onto a commercial aircraft.

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

Airbag covers made by unauthorised manufacturers can malfunction causing serious injury or death, placing people who have them installed at risk. Upon deployment of an airbag in a crash, counterfeit airbag covers can shatter, sending shrapnel into a vehicle’s passenger compartment.

On December 8, 2020, a shipment of counterfeit airbag parts ordered by Al-Abadi was intercepted by agents from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) and the US Postal Inspection Service. Further investigation determined that he had sold approximately 533 counterfeit airbags.

Additionally, Al-Abadi shipped at least one counterfeit airbag by aeroplane without proper hazardous material classifications, labelling, or packaging in violation of the Department of Transportation’s hazardous material regulations.

Airbags are considered a Class 9 explosive under federal law, and this classification requires that they be shipped with precautions, such as grounding straps to avoid any static electricity that may activate them in transit.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by on June 11 and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $2m, and three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

“China has been identified as one of the largest exporters of counterfeit commodities, including counterfeit airbags,” said the Department of Justice. “In this case, federal agents recovered more than 2,000 counterfeit airbags and parts from Al-Abadi’s residence and place of business.”

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