DETROIT – Two metropolitan Detroit residents face criminal charges following their arrests Monday morning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents during an enforcement action targeting an alleged counterfeit air bag trafficking scheme. The arrests capped a nearly two-year investigation by HSI special agents.
The arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, Eastern District of Michigan, and Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit.
The suspects Samar Ayoub, 39, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., and Hussein Jomaa, 30, of Dearborn, Mich., who made their initial appearances in federal court Monday afternoon, are charged in a criminal complaint with knowingly trafficking counterfeit merchandise.
According to the complaint, which was unsealed Oct. 15, Jomaa purchased Honda-branded air bags and other Honda trademark-infringing items from Ayoub late last year. Jomaa, the documented general manager of Eagle Auto in northwest Detroit, indicated he purchased the air bags and other counterfeit parts to place in vehicles destined for Africa. Ayoub is alleged to have originally purchased the air bags and other items from a manufacturer in China.
"Drivers or passengers of any car should never have to think twice that their airbags won't work or may actually harm them when they need them most," said Moskowitz. "Detroit introduced the automotive world to the passenger airbag in 1973, and it has saved countless lives over the years. HSI is committed to doing everything we can to keep dangerous counterfeit and substandard safety equipment from entering the marketplace and our cars."
"Counterfeit auto parts like air bags not only violate intellectual property laws, they also create a serious safety risk to consumers." McQuade said.
HSI special agents have seized approximately 73 counterfeit air bags as part of this investigation.
In lab tests conducted on the seized air bags, upon deployment, video shows them propelling projectiles, exploding and/or completely disengaging from the vehicle's mounting devices.
The arrests come after a joint Oct. 10 announcement by ICE and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warning consumers of the grave dangers associated with the use of counterfeit air bags.
Trafficking in counterfeit merchandise carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
A complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), which assisted in the investigation, is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting, piracy and commercial fraud. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft and commercial fraud. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and our war fighters. For more information on the IPR Center please visit www.IPRCenter.gov.