Updated 02/19/2013 07:01 PM
Feds: Counterfeit Auto Parts Ring Supplied City Cabs
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a counterfeit auto parts ring that authorities say sold supplies to New York City taxi companies.
Three people were under arrest Tuesday and agents were searching locations in Queens and New Jersey, including a warehouse in Long Island City, as the investigation continues.
The FBI says generic car parts were sold in boxes with the labels of premium manufacturers.
Some city cab companies may have unknowingly installed the lower quality parts on their cars, including brakes, water pumps and springs.
"There are brake pads that are generic, that you can buy at an auto parts store under a generic name, but they are being sold as Ford, or [General Motors] or Chrysler parts when they really aren't. So they are being sold at an unfairly high price," said Martin Feely, an FBI supervisory special agent. "Ford, Chrysler, GM, whatever the company might be, their name is being used without their permission and they are not reaping any benefit from that."
The New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers says it is working closely with authorities to determine how many cabs may have been affected.
"Many of the livery cabs are not inspected as frequently as the yellow cabs are, therefore it concerns me even more, because if this counterfeiter has been supplying the auto parts stores where the livery cars shop at, they may have been contaminated even worse, and they won't know until they have an accident," said Fernando Mateo, the federation's president.
In a statement, the Taxi and Limousine Commission praised the FBI investigation and expressed confidence in the safety of its fleet, saying city taxis and livery cabs are inspected three times a year.
In a statement, the TLC adds, "The public may remain confident in the safety of New York City taxicabs by virtue of the frequent and exhaustive inspections they each undergo at the TLC’s own state-of-the-art facility, but successfully keeping counterfeiters like these at bay is crucial."
FBI officials said it could take days, if not weeks to go through all the boxes in the Long Island City warehouse, but said the counterfeit parts do not necessarily appear to be unsafe.
Those arrested could face up to 10 years in prison.