Today’s news:

Fake car parts sold to taxis from LIC spot: Feds

TimesLedger Newspapers

Two New Jersey men and a Pennsylvania man have been indicted in Manhattan federal court after they allegedly sold counterfeit car parts to locations in Long Island City and elsewhere, some of which service city taxis and limousines, authorities said.

Shashi Malhotra and Fadi Kilani, of Paterson, N.J., and Richard Dininni, of Easton, Pa., were charged with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and trafficking in counterfeit goods in two indictments unsealed Tuesday, the FBI and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

As a result of their charges, Malhotra and Kilani’s Paterson offices and a warehouse at Vernon Boulevard and 35th Avenue in Astoria have been raided.

“We congratulate the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office on this investigation and today’s operation, which effectively put this distribution network out of business,” city Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said in a statement.

The three men operated independent companies in their hometowns and from October 2011 through February 2013 allegedly sold and conspired to sell generic automotive parts doctored to look like original manufacturing parts from Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Federal Mogul, which contracts with automobile manufacturers to create parts, authorities said.

“While their replacement parts may have been no different from many other generic parts sold every day in the aftermarket, they were able to command the same higher prices charged by the automobile manufacturers’ whose names they stole,” Bharara said.

Some of the specific crimes alleged in the indictments include Dinnini packaging brake pads doctored to look like Ford Motorcraft products for sale in April, Dininni delivering counterfeit brake pads to a Long Island City resident in May, Kilani hiring a delivery driver to take doctored ignition coils to an automotive parts distributor in Long Island City in July and Malhotra delivering counterfeit brake pads to a Long Island City resident in August, the U.S. attorney said.

The indictments also allege Malhotra imported and tried to import parts from China and other places overseas in July, while Kilani exported and attempted to export parts to Saudi Arabia and other places overseas in November. Malhotra and Kilani also allegedly were found to have discussed over the phone a sale of counterfeit Ford Motorcraft tie rods in October, according to the indictments.

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said even though the parts are counterfeit, that does not mean they are defective, but this was serious because it was a consumer rip-off issue and buyers were paying above market-rate for the parts.

“The good news is passengers don’t even have to think of this in terms of safety,” Fromberg said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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