News release

MD makes installing, selling fake airbags a crime

5/10/2016

Coalition lauds Gov. Hogan’s signing of bill aimed at deadly insurance con

imageMaking airbag scams a specific crime in Maryland will help save lives and clamp down on a costly insurance scam, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud said in lauding Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s signing a fraud bill into law yesterday.

“Maryland has taken a firm step toward deflating airbag scams. Dangerous knockoff airbags threaten motorist lives in crashes and bilk auto insurers with grossly inflated replacement costs,” said Howard Goldblatt, the Coalition’s director of government affairs.

SB 969 makes it a crime to install or sell counterfeit airbags. Conviction earns up to five years in state prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Maryland becomes the 12th state in recent years to criminalize airbag schemes.

Dishonest body shops install inexpensive knockoffs bought on the black market for a few dollars. The shops charge auto insurers full price of $1,000 or more for a legitimate carmaker’s bag.

“Dishonest repair shops make large profits for little work. They commit insurance fraud against both consumers and insurers,” Goldblatt said.

Motorists face a serious safety peril. Knockoffs generally won’t open properly in a crash. Drivers have died in crashes involving non-functioning counterfeits. Knockoffs also spewed shrapnel and flames at crash dummies in federal tests.

“Shady repair shops can easily buy counterfeit airbags from a thriving black market, and websites such as eBay and Craigslist. Crime rings have made the internet an efficient marketplace,” Goldblatt wrote.

Many bogus airbags are well-disguised as original manufacturer parts.

Drivers have no way of knowing they’re driving with useless airbags.

A Chinese national named Dai Zhensong tried to flood the U.S. with fake airbags made in his factory in China. They looked like legitimate models from mainstream carmakers. Thousands of airbags made it to the U.S. Many could’ve been installed on vehicles. Zhensong’s large network was dismantled and he received 37 months in federal prison.

California, Pennsylvania and South Carolina also are debating criminalizing airbag schemes.

“Airbags protect us from serious injuries or worse,” Goldblatt recently wrote Hogan in urging his signature. “We expect airbags to protect us. Counterfeit and nonfunctioning airbags place that that expectation in jeopardy.”

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