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December 19, 2019Seattle, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE HSI, federal partners, warn consumers to beware of deadly counterfeit vehicle parts flooding the market

SEATTLE – The production and trafficking of counterfeit vehicle parts poses a significant health and safety threat to consumers. It also impacts the economic growth of legitimate businesses and impacts consumers through lost revenue, downtime, and replacement costs. To ensure public safety, agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), work alongside federal partners at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the U.S. Attorney's Office, to dismantle counterfeit operations and to hold individuals involved in them accountable.

Operations to combat counterfeit goods ensure public safety and national security by preventing dangerous and harmful goods from entering the market, promoting the integrity of legitimate trade systems and by efficiently utilizing resources.

“Individuals who sell counterfeit goods are placing unsuspecting consumers at risk of serious injury or death,” said Debra Parker, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle. “These operations are very important to public safety and are only successful through strong federal and local partnership, such as in the recent case of Ali Mufrej.”

In April 2018, CBP intercepted an international parcel containing six counterfeit Toyota airbags, shipped by Ali Mufrej. HSI agents on the Seattle Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) initiated an investigation into Mufrej and determined he was associated with a large volume of shipments of counterfeit vehicle airbags and auto parts being sold online.

“CBP is a strong line of defense against the importation of counterfeit goods,” said Adele Fasano, director of field operations Seattle. “Working with federal and local partners is a force multiplier in protecting consumers from counterfeit and unsafe products.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, HSI BEST-Seattle arrested Mufrej for trafficking counterfeit goods. HSI special agents also executed a search warrant at Mufrej’s residence in Des Moines. During the execution of the search warrant, agents located and seized counterfeit airbags, airbag inflators, airbag covers, automaker emblems, electronic devices and miscellaneous documents relating to the shipment and sale of counterfeit airbags. The counterfeit airbags were found to pose significant risk to consumers.

Mufrej subsequently pled guilty in federal court to criminal copyright infringement – accessory after the fact. On Dec. 17, 2019, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

The investigation was led by HSI BEST, with significant assistance being provided by USPIS and CBP and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.

The primary mission of HSI BEST is to combat emerging and existing Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) by employing the full range of federal, state, local, tribal and international law enforcement authorities and resources in the fight to identify, investigate, disrupt and dismantle these organizations at every level of operation.

BESTs eliminate the barriers between federal and local investigations and close the gap with international partners in multinational criminal investigations.