A Russian immigrant accused of selling thousands of counterfeit airbags on eBay was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Monday for trafficking the counterfeit devices and transporting hazardous materials by airplane.
Prosecutors say Igor Borodin sold more than 7,000 airbags he got from manufacturers in China. But attorneys for the government said they may never know how many of the fake units are tucked in the steering columns of salvaged Hondas and Toyotas across the United States.
Borodin, 27, made $1.7 million, about $1 million of which went to manufacturers in China that used airbags of unknown integrity, random bag folding methods, and sub-standard materials, according to prosecutors.
Most vehicle airbags including Borodins use an explosive charge to inflate the folded bag. Two airbags purchased from Borodin by Honda investigators failed to properly inflate when tested. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom OMalley said counterfeit airbags in other cases have exploded and shot shrapnel on impact.
Were not talking about T-shirts, were not talking about shoes, OMalley said. When people see that (manufacturers) mark on the steering wheel, they know that product has been tested and designed to protect their safety.
All he cared about was how much money could he make. He didnt care one iota about the people behind the wheel.
The airbags Borodin sold also didnt display legally required hazardous material warnings when they were taken by air from China, according to court documents. That posed a safety risk to anyone moving and handling them, federal prosecutors said.
Borodin, who immigrated to the United States on a work-study program at Bob Jones University, was part-owner of Charlotte-based Krugger Auto.
On Aug. 16, 2012, federal agents seized 99 counterfeit airbags from the auto shop and 1,514 fake airbags at the Indian Trail home Borodin built with proceeds from the air bag business, prosecutors said. OMalley said Borodins two-car garage held nothing but shelves of airbags and shipping materials.
Airbags typically cost more than $700. Borodin sold his for $150 on eBay, typically to mechanics or dealers who re-sell salvaged vehicles.
He was a prolific seller, garnering top-seller awards from eBay that allowed his airbag business to be prominently displayed during searches, OMalley said.
It does appear you were the No. 1 distributor in the country of counterfeit airbags, said Judge Frank Whitney, just before imposing a sentence three months shy of the maximum sentence prosecutors had sought. You worked hard at your profession and you profited from it. But unfortunately, what you did was a crime.
Borodin was also ordered to pay $26,000 in restitution to the 118 victims of the offenses who filed claims with the U.S. attorneys office.
The married father of two faces deportation when he is released from prison.
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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