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South Florida Shop Owner Busted for Installing Fake Airbags in Cars Headed to Dealerships

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A South Florida man has recently been arrested for installing fake airbags, bad airbags or no airbags at all into vehicles headed for local car dealerships, where they could’ve been sold to unsuspecting customers. According to authorities, the imitation airbags would have put drivers and their loved ones at risk of injury or death. A routine inspection at Mas Interior Repairs in Hialeah turned into a multi-agency investigation, when Miami-Dade Police auto theft detectives say they found fake airbags inside several cars.

The shop’s owner, Aristides Santiesteban, is charged with three felony counts of installing fake or junk-filled airbags. His attorney released a statement on his behalf, “Aristides Santiesteban denies the charges against him. He owns a small business that reupholsters car interiors. Mr. Santiesteban has no criminal record and has a good reputation for honesty in the community.”

Investigators say there is evidence to prove he was swapping out airbags. Pictures were sent showing piles of airbags inside the repair shop. Santiesteban is fighting those charges, however he has already paid a thousand dollars in fines for operating without a license. The investigation is being led by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and the Miami-Dad’s Office of Consumer Protection. County Enforcement Supervisor, Jorge Herrera, says the vehicles were “repaired in such a way that you would never know that those airbags don’t work.” The NICB’s, Tony Fernandez stated,“if you get involved in a wreck, it’s not going to deploy which means that the person driving the vehicle or the passenger could die.”

According to the National Crime Bureau, some 50-thousand airbags are stolen each year. Apparently, air bags are big business. While an airbag normally costs one to three thousand dollars, on the black market it goes for just $50 to $200. Santiesteban has plead not guilty to the charges. His trial is set for June.

To ensure that your airbags are in the best condition, make sure the airbag light goes on when you start your car and then turns off. Your vehicle may also be inspected at an authorized dealer to see if it’s been in an accident. Fernandez says if the car was in a wreck with frontal damage, “the airbag probably deployed so the airbag that I have there is either a new airbag or could be a fake airbag.” Before purchasing a used car, make sure to have the proper inspections and research of the vehicle to ensure you and your loved ones safety.