The owner of a Bridgeview vehicle diagnostic center has been charged with felony counterfeit trademark after at least two dozen counterfeit airbags were found at his business, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said today.
On Feb. 7, Sheriff’s Police and special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) went to the 7900 block of West Leonora Lane in Elmwood Park, the shipping address for a shipment of counterfeit air bags that had come from China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had seized the airbag shipment earlier that week. Investigators learned that Grzegorz Lepkowski, who lived at the location, had ordered the airbags for Stanislaw Gondek, his friend.
CBP officers had previously notified Gondek on three separate occasions that the agency had seized counterfeit airbags that were originally to be shipped to his business, G7 Auto Diagnostics, located in the 7200 block of 90th Place in Bridgeview.
Sheriff’s Police and HSI agents went to Gondek’s business and with his consent, searched the location and found 31 airbags, of which 24 were determined to be counterfeit.
The airbags were for Honda, Mazda, Ford, Lexus, Toyota, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen vehicles.
Lepkowski has been charged with a misdemeanor count of counterfeit trademarks. Gondek, 31, of Hickory Hills, has been charged with a felony count of counterfeit trademarks.
Gondek appeared Saturday in bond court at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building and was ordered released on his own recognizance.
Tests done previously by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have shown consistent malfunctioning of counterfeit airbags, ranging from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.
According to the NHTSA, it is critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their air bag. Vehicle owners concerned they may have had a counterfeit air bag installed in their car can visit NHTSA’s web site at http://www.safercar.gov.
Sheriff Dart reminds the public that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty by the government in a court of law.