CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. district court in Charlotte to trafficking in counterfeit airbags, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
Igor Borodin, 27, of Indian Trail, N.C., also pleaded guilty to delivering and causing to be delivered hazardous material, that being airbags, by air commerce in violation of rules and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Transportation.
A federal criminal indictment dated Aug. 21 charged Borodin with one count of trafficking and attempting to traffic in counterfeit airbags bearing the registered trademarks of automobile manufacturers, and one count of delivering and causing to be delivered hazardous materials (airbags) to air carriers for transportation in air commerce. The indictment also contained a notice of forfeiture of all of the proceeds of the crime, which includes all of the seized counterfeit airbags, $60,000 in funds seized during the investigation and several pieces of real estate in Charlotte and the state of Washington.
According to information presented at court, Borodin is part-owner of Krugger Auto, located in Charlotte. On Aug. 16, law enforcement special agents with HSI's Charlotte and Chattanooga, Tenn., offices and the DOT Office of Inspector General (OIG) executed federal search warrants at Krugger Auto and Borodin's residence in Indian Trail. Court records show that while executing the search warrants, special agents recovered 99 counterfeit airbags from Borodin's business and 1,514 counterfeit airbags from his residence. Court records also show that Borodin had purchased counterfeit airbags from China, which he then resold through eBay. According to filed documents and court proceedings, the counterfeit airbag shipments ordered by Borodin did not display the legally-required hazardous material warnings when the shipments were transported in air commerce from China to the United States.
DOT has classified airbags as Class 9 dangerous goods, and as such they must be classified, documented, packaged, marked and labeled in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Regulation. The transportation of airbags without legally-required warnings of the hazardous material contained in airbag shipments pose a safety risk to all persons transporting and handling the unmarked hazardous materials.
According to court records, Borodin sold at least 7,000 counterfeit airbags online, and between February 2011 and May 2012 Borodin earned at least $1.4 million in revenue from eBay sales of counterfeit airbags. Independent testing of a counterfeit airbag sold in September 2011 by Borodin through eBay showed that the airbag did not properly inflate.
"My office will not allow fake airbags to endanger the safety of the drivers in our communities," said U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins in making today's announcement of the guilty plea. "Airbags that do not meet the quality and safety standards of the automobile manufacturers pose a serious threat to human life because they fail to work when they are needed the most, during a car accident. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned consumers of the serious threat posed by counterfeit airbags, which range from failure to inflate during a front-end collision, to expelling flames and shrapnel toward car occupants upon deployment. With the help of our law enforcement partners, we will continue to go after those who distribute counterfeit airbags in the market."
"Drivers should not have to worry about whether or not their air bags will shoot shrapnel at them in the event of an accident," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "HSI is committed to doing everything we can to keep dangerous and counterfeit substandard safety equipment from entering our marketplace and our cars. We encourage anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this fraud to visit safercar.gov for more information."
"Public safety and consumer protection are among our top investigative priorities. These unscrupulous acts are committed against people who do not even realize the danger they have been put in," said DOT OIG Special Agent in Charge Marlies Gonzalez. "Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue to leverage our resources to bring to justice those who violate the law and risk the lives of others."
Borodin entered his plea of guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer. Count one (trafficking in counterfeit airbags) carries a maximum term of ten years in prison and a $2 million fine. Count two (delivering hazardous material) carries a maximum prison term of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
At today's plea hearing, Judge Cayer also issued a consent order and judgment of forfeiture based on the charges contained in the indictment. Pursuant to the consent order, the court found that, as a result of his criminal conduct, Borodin obtained $1,743,400 in proceeds which he must forfeit. In addition, the court ordered forfeiture of numerous specific properties including Borodin's residence, all of the seized counterfeit airbags and $60,000 in cash seized from his Indian Trail home.
Borodin has been in local federal custody since his arrest August 16, 2012. He will remain in custody until his sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.