by Steve Guntli
Two Canadian brothers have been sentenced after selling faulty counterfeit airbags over the Internet.
Surrey residents Abdul Masood Qayumi, 25, and his brother, Abdul Masih Qayumi, 26, were arrested at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine in May. The brothers had sold more than 40 counterfeit airbags from China over eBay between April 2013 and May 2014, making more than $33,000 on phony Honda, Toyota and BMW airbags.
The brothers pleaded guilty in July. On September 30, Masood was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, two counts of smuggling goods into the U.S. and two counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods. He was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution to the companies on whose trademarks he infringed. Masih was sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release. The brothers have no previous criminal records, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In August 2013, undercover HSI agents purchased two airbags from the brothers, one of which was tested against a standard airbag in a lab in Eaton, Ohio.
In the lab test, the counterfeit airbag only deployed to about half the strength of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) airbag. It also ejected a portion of the plastic airbag cover towards what would have been the driver’s head and let out streams of fire from above and below the bag. (See the video here).
In November 2013, HSI made a second undercover purchase and witnessed the brothers shipping the items from Mailboxes International in Blaine in an attempt to legitimize the sale with a U.S. address.
The Qayumis originally denied knowing that the airbags were counterfeit, but an investigation into the brothers’ email interactions with their Chinese suppliers has shown otherwise. In one email, Masood complained about more than half of their sales being returned because clients suspected the airbags were counterfeit, according to ICE.
The prosecuting attorneys for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington noted in a memorandum to the court that the brothers had showed disregard for their customers’ safety and asked the court to consider their deceptive shipping practices and attempts to evade eBay’s copyright infringement standards.
The brothers had been using multiple eBay accounts for their sales, and the website’s administrators froze several of those accounts for violating the site’s policies.
Investigators are currently looking into the Chinese source of the counterfeit airbags, according to the ICE.
The market for low-priced airbags has arisen due in part to the high cost of replacing OEM airbags. Deployed airbags typically cost between $1,000 and $6,000 to replace, depending on the make, model and year of the vehicle. While auto insurance policies will usually cover a deployed airbag, the high cost of replacing them, coupled with any additional damage the car may have sustained, could lead insurance companies to total the vehicle rather than replace the airbag.
Used car owners may have counterfeit airbags in their vehicles without knowing it.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car owners are most at risk for having counterfeit airbags in their vehicles if they purchased a used car after its airbag deployed, if they drive a salvaged or reconstructed vehicle, if the airbags were replaced at a repair shop that is not part of their dealership or if they paid less than $400 for airbags from an uncredited source, such as eBay.
If your vehicle meets these criteria, visit safercar.gov to learn how to get your vehicle’s airbags checked.