SEATTLE — A British Columbia man who sold counterfeit airbags sourced from China on eBay was sentenced Tuesday to six months in federal prison, three years' supervised release and was ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Abdul Masood Qayumi, 25, of Surrey, B.C., and his brother Abdul Masih Qayumi, 26, marketed and sold more than $33,000 worth of counterfeit Honda, BMW and Toyota airbags on eBay for about one year, according to court records. HSI special agents began their investigation after American Honda Motor Corporation alerted investigators of the brothers' online sales scheme.
In August 2013, HSI special agents purchased two Honda airbags from the brothers, which Honda confirmed were fakes. One of the airbags was tested by a lab in Eaton, Ohio, and court records state it failed to deploy as designed and shot flames from the top and bottom of the airbag. A portion of the airbag cover also separated and was propelled forward towards the driver position. Then in November 2013, HSI special agents made a second undercover purchase, this time they observed the brothers cross into the U.S. to mail the package from a mailbox store in Blaine, which prosecutors say was an effort to legitimize the package with a U.S. return address.
Though the brothers first denied knowing the products they were selling were fakes, evidence obtained through the investigation proved otherwise, including eBay freezing multiple accounts for copyright infringement and emails exchanged with their Chinese supplier. In one email, Masood complained to his supplier that half of the airbags were being returned because customers were concerned they were being shipped from China and they did not trust the quality. In their sentencing memorandum to the court, prosecutors noted the brothers' deceptive shipping practices, use of multiple eBay accounts to evade the site's efforts to shut down their counterfeit sales and the brothers' lack of regard for their customers' safety, despite repeated warnings that the airbags they were selling were counterfeits.
Masood was arrested in May at the Peace Arch port of entry in Blaine. He pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, two counts of smuggling goods into the United States and two counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods. The $33,000 in restitution will be paid to the companies whose trademarks were infringed.
Masood's brother, Masih, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods in July and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 7.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their airbag. Vehicle owners concerned they may have had a counterfeit airbag installed in their car can visit NHTSA's website at http://www.safercar.gov.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.