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Intellectual Property Rights

Counterfeit airbags recovered at Chicago-area auto shop

COOK COUNTY, Ill. – The owner of a Bridgeview vehicle diagnostic center has been charged with felony counterfeit trademarks after at least two dozen counterfeit airbags were found at his business, announced Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart Thursday.

These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by Cook County Sheriff’s Police, with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

On Feb. 7, Sheriff’s Police and HSI special agents went to the 7900 block of W. Leonora Lane in Elmwood Park, Ill., which was listed as the shipping address for a shipment of counterfeit air bags from China. CBP officers had seized the airbag shipment earlier that week. Investigators learned that Grzegorz Lepkowski, who lived at the location, had ordered the airbags for his friend Stanislaw Gondek.

CBP had previously notified Gondek on three separate occasions that the agency had seized counterfeit airbags that were originally to be shipped to his business, G7 Auto Diagnostics, located in the 7200 block of 90th Place in Bridgeview.

Sheriff’s Police and HSI special agents went to Gondek’s business and, with his consent, searched the location and found 31 airbags, of which 24 were determined to be counterfeit.

The airbags were for Honda, Mazda, Ford, Lexus, Toyota, Chevrolet and Volkswagen vehicles.

Lepkowski has been charged with a misdemeanor count of counterfeit trademarks. Gondek, 31, of Hickory Hills, Ill., has been charged with a felony count of counterfeit trademarks.

Gondek appeared Saturday in bond court at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building and was ordered released on his own recognizance.

Tests done previously by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have shown consistent malfunctioning of counterfeit airbags, ranging from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

According to the 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 air bag. Vehicle owners concerned they may have had a counterfeit air bag installed in their car can visit NHTSA's website at http://www.safercar.gov.

The public is reminded that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty by the government in a court of law.