Vancouver man sentenced to prison for selling counterfeit air bags

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A Vancouver man who sold hundreds of counterfeit vehicle air bags on eBay and Craigslist was sentenced to six months in prison and three years' supervised release in Tacoma's U.S. District Court.

Vitaliy Yaremkiv, 25, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. He sold at least 964 counterfeit air bags imported from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. As part of his sentence, Yaremkiv agreed to pay $137,243 restitution to motor corporations Honda and Toyota.

Yaremkiv ran his business, Vital Auto Parts and Sales, out of his home in Vancouver, according to court documents. He allegedly imported counterfeit Honda, Subaru and Toyota air bags and sold them online as the real thing, making $137,243 in sales. Investigators believe many of the air bags were sold to independent garages that installed them in vehicles believing they purchased a genuine air bag.

These air bags have been known to catch on fire, spew hazardous debris and detach completely from the vehicle. According to prosecutors, driving a car with a counterfeit air bag may be more dangerous than driving a car with no air bag at all because the occupants can be hit with explosive shrapnel when the air bag fails.

Although law enforcement seized some of these air bags, others remain in the market. "Some may continue to be installed in cars used on a daily basis for an indefinite amount of time presenting a continued risk of injury to unwary used car buyers," prosecutors wrote to the court.

This case was investigated by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.