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Press Release

Defendants in Poland and Florida Indicted for Scheme to Import Used Airbags, Sold as New, into the United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Pawel Pankow, 41, of Wolow, Poland, and Magdalena Pankow, 48, of Palm Coast, Florida, charging them with conspiracy to smuggle goods into the United States by means of false statements and to commit wire and mail fraud, as well as four separate counts of mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Magdalena Pankow was arrested over the weekend in Flagler County, Florida, after the indictment issued last Thursday.

According to court documents, Pawel Pankow began shipping airbags into the United States no later than in 2008 and sold thousands of them through online sales, mostly through eBay. Pankow listed the items as in brand new condition and as genuine original equipment parts even though the items were used, counterfeit, assembled from used components, and/or not authorized for sale in the United States. Pawel Pankow shipped airbags, purchased from sources in Europe and China, to Magdalena Pankow in Florida and often mislabeled the shipments as products other than airbags. Magdalena Pankow then fulfilled orders from locations in Florida by sending them through the United States Postal Service. Federal regulations classify airbags as hazardous material, and they cannot be shipped by air or ground through the United States Postal Service.

This case is the product of an investigation by FBI offices in Fresno, California, and Jacksonville, Florida, with assistance from the Intellectual Property Rights Center in Arlington, Virginia, United States Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa is prosecuting the case.

Magdalena Pankow is scheduled to make her initial appearance before a United States magistrate judge in Jacksonville, Florida. Pawel Pankow has not yet been arrested or appeared in court on the case.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on each fraud count and five years in prison on the conspiracy count. Each charge has a maximum potential fine of $250,000 and a three-year term of supervised release. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated May 15, 2024

Financial Fraud