Customs officials have seized more than 900 fake New York State vehicle Inspection stickers during a luggage examination at John F. Kennedy Airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers say the passenger, Luis Jose Cabral, had just arrived on a flight from Santiago, Dominic Republic when agency officials pulled him aside to examine his luggage.
Cabral allegedly had 935 counterfeit vehicle inspection stickers hidden inside his sneakers and a photo album, according to officials.
Prosecutors estimated the value of the stickers at more than $100,000. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said they've never seen a counterfeit bust like it and that there could be more fraudulent stickers in the city.
The significant haul suggests that the fake stickers might be connected to a larger counterfeit ring, authorities said.
If the scheme had succeeded, prosecutors say hundreds of unsafe vehicles could have been operating on the streets.
New York state has expanded the search for fakes after finding phony stickers in LIRR parking lots and other places.
The counterfeit stickers likely were intended for individuals who knew their vehicles wouldn't pass inspection, according to prosecutors. Those drivers would rather pay hundreds of dollars for a fake sticker than thousands of dollars to fix their car.
Automotive repair shop owner Joe Acini said federal agents probably noticed the faded state trademark when they found 935 counterfeit inspection stickers.
"The coloring and bar code looks good," Acini said.
The mechanic said the fake stickers put everyone's life in jeopardy because there's no way of knowing whether a car's key parts are reliable.
"You have bad tire rods, you have bad brakes, bad tires," Acini said. "Anything can happen."
Drivers were also concerned about the news.
"Those cars are not qualified to be running on the streets," John Del Valle, of the Lower East Side, said. "Dangerous. Very dangerous."
Officials say Cabral, a Dominican immigrant who lives in the Bronx, was arrested shortly after the discovery.
He was arraigned Tuesday on criminal possession of a forged instrument. The New York Times says his lawyer didn't respond to a request for comment.
If convicted of making counterfeit inspection stickers Cabral faces up to seven years in prison.