FBI: Operation Supplied Parts To Unsuspecting New York City Taxi Companies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)- Three people were indicted Tuesday in connection with an investigation of a knock-off auto parts ring.

Shashi Malhotra, Fadi Kilani and Richard Dininni were arrested Tuesday morning for conspiring to traffic counterfeit goods, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced.

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FBI agents raided three warehouse locations in Queens and New Jersey on Tuesday as part of the probe — one in Long Island City and two in Paterson.

Officials said many of the counterfeit parts — which were being sold as top-of-the-line brands — were found to be brake pads.

The knock-off auto parts were sold to auto shops that cater to taxis because the cabs take such a pounding on city streets that they’re constantly in need of replacement parts, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

WEB EXTRA: Read Indictments Against Kilani, Malhotra | Read Indictment Against Dininni

Officials said the brake pads put both cabbies and their passengers at risk.

FBI Agents Raid Auto-Parts Warehouse (CBS 2)

FBI Agents Raid Auto-Parts Warehouse (CBS 2)

However, the commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said yellow taxis are indeed safe.

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“I think we’ve got as safe taxi system as there is anywhere in the world, but certainly for the taxi owners, it’s outrageous that if they’re exposed to knock-offs, that’s a real consumer issue for them,” David  Yassky told 1010 WINS.

Yassky said there were no plans for immediate inspections of taxis in light of the situation.

“We want to make absolutely sure that counterfeit parts are not anywhere in the New York City market and certainly not in the taxi system. Taxis have to come in, as a matter of course, every four months for an inspection.  So we’re very confident that the taxis are the road are safe,” he said.

Fernando Mateo of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers has urged all drivers in the union to get their brakes checked as a precaution.

Some passengers said they support Mateo’s call.

“There’s always parts that have recalls on tons of cars, so the faster they do it, the quicker they do it, the more people will be less concerned about it,” a cab rider told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.

The three face up to 15 years in prison on conspiracy and trafficking charges, if convicted.

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