NEW YORK (AP) -- Three men were charged Tuesday with peddling knock-off brakes and other replacement auto parts that were used to repair New York City's yellow and livery cabs.
A federal indictment accused the defendants of trying to pass off lower quality generic parts, some made in China, as real replacement parts made by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and other well-known manufacturers. Their customers included suppliers for mechanics who service the cabs and limos.
"As alleged, these defendants sold the automobile replacement parts equivalent of designer knock-offs, but represented to their unsuspecting customers that they were buying the name brand," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
It was unclear if the counterfeits — which authorities compared to generic brands sold legitimately at lower prices — pose a safety risk. But a group representing cab drivers was warning fleet owners and mechanics to beware of parts supplied by a Queens shop linked to the defendants.
"We're concerned this could put the lives of drivers and passengers at risk," said Fernando Mateo of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers.
Since October 2011, two defendants operated a sham company in Patterson, N.J., that repackaged generic parts to look like name-brand products so they could sell them at higher prices, according to court papers. The third man ran a similar scam out of Easton, Pa., that also supplied shops with parts that ended up in New York City cabs, the papers say.
The parts included "brakes, brake pads, brake shoes, ignition coils, water pumps, window regulators, suspension sway bar links, wheel hubs, anti-lock braking sensors, control arm bushings, transmission filters, pitman arms, tie rod ends, and suspension air springs," the papers add.
Two of the men were awaiting court appearances in federal court in Manhattan; the third was to appear in court in Allentown, Pa. They each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of trafficking in counterfeit goods.
Authorities were recommending that potential victims of the scheme have their vehicles inspected to look for knock-off parts.