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Cheektowaga man pleads guilty to buying and selling counterfeit airbags

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Raymond Whelan, 49, of Cheektowaga, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $2,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiGiacomo, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant operates Rayscarparts71.com. Between June 2015 and March 2016, Whelan and co-defendant David Nichols entered into an agreement to sell counterfeit automobile airbags. Whelan would contact Nichols and order numerous airbags bearing counterfeit trademarks of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai, Acura, and Mitsubishi. Nichols would then locate manufacturers in China to supply the requested airbags.

In order to avoid detection during importation, the airbags were mislabeled. Once imported into the United States, Whelan would sell the airbags on eBay utilizing the name Rayscarparts71. The airbags were listed on eBay as genuine used airbags designed to fit Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai, Acura, and Mitsubishi.

During the investigation, multiple undercover purchases were made from Rayscarparts71 and airbags were seized from the defendant’s business. All the purchased and seized airbags were determined to be counterfeit. The airbags also contained trademarks of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai, Acura, and Mitsubishi, trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. None of these companies authorized the defendant to utilize their trademarks.

Whelan imported and sold more approximately 360 counterfeit automobile airbags with an average manufacturer’s retail price of $650.00. The total infringement amount was $236,600.

Co-defendant David Nichols was previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

The plea is the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly and Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Rose Brophy, Director of Field Operations.

Sentencing is scheduled for December 17, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Arcara.