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Counterfeit air bags called 'extreme safety risk'

By Joan Lowy

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Counterfeiting of a wide variety of auto parts has long been a well-known problem, industry officials said. But recent incidents have escalated concern by government officials. In August, federal agents confiscated nearly 1,600 counterfeit airbags and arrested a North Carolina auto mechanic, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer. The mechanic was tied by federal officials to another counterfeit airbag case last year in Tennessee, the report said.

Dai Zhensong, a Chinese citizen, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court in Chattanooga, Tenn., last February to 37 months in prison for trafficking in counterfeit airbags, according to a statement made at the time by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Zhensong was a part owner and manager of the international department of Guangzhou Auto Parts, which made a variety of auto parts, many of which were counterfeit, the statement said. In 2010, he traveled from China to Chattanooga to sell additional counterfeit airbags and other auto parts.

The counterfeit airbags were manufactured by purchasing genuine auto airbags that were torn down and used to make molds to produce the counterfeit bags. Trademark emblems were purchased through Honda, Toyota, Audi, BMW and other dealerships located in China and affixed to the counterfeit airbags. The airbags were advertised on the Guangzhou Auto Parts website and sold for approximately $50 to $70 each, far below the value of an authentic airbag, the statement said.

About 2,500 counterfeit airbags have been seized by law enforcement authorities so far this year, John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters. Investigations are under way in several locations around the country, and further arrests and seizures are expected, he said.

Follow Joan Lowy at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

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