A 27-year-old Union County man accused of selling thousands of counterfeit airbags pleaded guilty Monday to trafficking and delivering hazardous materials to air carriers for transportation.
Federal authorities say Igor Borodin purchased the airbags from China and then resold them on eBay.
Borodin sold an estimated 7,000 counterfeit airbags online and made at least $1.4 million from the eBay sales between February 2011 and May 2012, according to court records.
Independent testing of a counterfeit airbag sold in September 2011 by Borodin through eBay showed that the airbag did not properly inflate, authorities said.
My office will not allow fake airbags to endanger the safety of the drivers in our communities, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said in announcing Borodins guilty pleas. 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.
Tompkins said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned consumers earlier this month about 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.
The counterfeit airbag shipments ordered by Borodin did not display the legally-required hazardous material warnings when the shipments were transported by air from China to the United States, according to court documents.
The Department of Transportation has classified airbags as dangerous goods. Hazardous materials regulations require that they be documented, packaged and labeled. The transportation of airbags without the hazardous material warnings pose a safety risk to anyone transporting and handling them, federal prosecutors said.
The trafficking in counterfeit airbags charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine. The delivering hazardous materials charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Borodin has been in the Mecklenburg County jail since his arrest in August. He will remain locked up until his sentencing.
Borodin apparently became a suspect in 2011 when a federal investigation into the sale of counterfeit airbags in Tennessee identified him as selling numerous counterfeit airbags, according to court documents.
Authorities notified Borodin in June that theyd seized 60 airbags. A month later, after Borodin had changed his shipping destination, agents seized 20 more counterfeit bags that were bound for him, court documents say.
Federal agents in August executed search warrants at Krugger Auto in Charlotte and at Borodins home on Crismark Drive, in a neighborhood off Mill Grove Road in Indian Trail.
Authorities say they found 1,514 counterfeit airbags along with thousands of dollars in cash at Borodins home.
Agents discovered 99 counterfeit airbags at the auto shop, according to court documents. Borodin was identified as part-owner of Krugger Auto, the court documents say.
Borodin told investigators he knew the airbags were counterfeit, court documents say.