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PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Emiliano Rodriguez, 44, a citizen of the Dominican Republic residing in Philadelphia, PA, was arrested and charged by Indictment with one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, and two counts of causing the delivery of hazardous materials by air carrier in connection with a scheme to utilize counterfeit goods in used vehicles, which he then resold to unsuspecting customers.
The Indictment alleges that from at least January 2017 through October 2019, the defendant, who is a trained auto mechanic, fraudulently imported counterfeit airbags from China and installed these unproven parts in salvaged autos which were then reintroduced to the consumer market. China has been identified as the largest exporter of counterfeit commodities, including counterfeit airbags. Persons involved in the trade of counterfeit airbags engage in this practice in an effort to increase profits from their sales by decreasing the cost of the parts used to replace the original items. Unsuspecting motorists purchase used or salvaged vehicles unaware of the history of the part(s) used in the vehicle reconstruction. Once purchased, the vehicles are driven on public roads and expose the driver, passengers and general public to potential hazards associated with the use of counterfeit parts. In this case, federal agents recovered more than 450 counterfeit airbags and parts from the Rodriguez’s residence and business.
“The hazards posed to unsuspecting motorists and the general public by the alleged actions of the defendant in this case are enormous, and could have ramifications for years to come,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Safety equipment as important as vehicle airbags are subject to strict quality control standards to keep everyone safe, therefore when corners are cut by utilizing counterfeit goods, the consequences can be disastrous. Our Office appreciates the dedicated efforts of our law enforcement partners to investigate and bring charges in this case.”
“Counterfeit airbags pose real dangers to unsuspecting members of the public. The risks of counterfeit and substandard auto parts are known by those who work in the automotive industry,” said William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia. “Yet, Rodriquez, an auto mechanic, allegedly outfitted salvaged automobiles with counterfeit airbags imported from China and reintroduced those vehicles back into the consumer market, thereby putting lives at risk in the interest of making a profit. This investigation is yet another reminder of the risks posed by counterfeit goods. As result of this case, Rodriquez will now face justice for his alleged role in this scheme.”
“Illegally transporting potentially hazardous goods puts our transportation system at risk. When those goods are also counterfeit, the risk can be even greater,” said Joseph Harris, Special Agent-in-Charge, Northeast Region, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Together with our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues, we remain committed to pursuing those who would compromise public safety for personal gain.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, fines of $2,050,000, and a $200 special assessment.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Transportation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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