U.S. Customs agents armed with search warrants seized tons of what they believe are counterfeit bolts Wednesday from 11 Western companies - including four Utah firms.
The confiscated bolts or fasteners are believed to be substandard, not meeting U.S. industry standards, said Anthony J. Macisco, acting resident agent in charge of the Salt Lake U.S. Customs Service.Inferior fasteners have been responsible for equipment failures, structural equipment failures, structural engineering defects and numerous accidents nationwide, customs officials said. The search warrants were part of a yearlong investigation that targeted importers and distributors of bolts that may have been illegally imported into the country.
But the presidents of two of the four Utah companies contacted Wednesday by the Deseret News said they are not overly concerned about the investigation because their companies are clean.
"The distributors in Salt Lake have nothing to hide," said Art Kiisel, president of A&T Bolt Supply in Murray. "I always thought they (customs agents) ought to badger the importers or the manufacturers" instead of the distributors.
Kiisel said his company buys bolts from a broker and then distributes them. All fasteners that he buys are marked with a manufacturer's symbol and a strength marking that indicates they meet federal standards, he said.
"I don't know if they're counterfeit. I assume they're not," he said. "We have to take these at face value when we buy these."
"As far as we're concerned, they (bolts) are what they are marked as," said Duane Davis, president of Affiliated Industrial Products in South Salt Lake.
Davis said his company has never had a single complaint about the quality of any of the bolts it has sold. "We're just doing everything we can to try and help them (investigators)," he said.
Fastener Engineering in Salt Lake City and Porteous Fastener Co. in West Valley City were the other two Utah companies served with search warrants Wednesday.
Out-of-state companies were Centennial Bolt, A&I Bolt and Nut and Bennet Denver from Denver; Summit Fasteners and Regal Co. from Colorado Springs; Wareparts Inc., Casper, Wyo.; and Tengco Inc., Montgomery County, Ill.
"These warrants are just the beginning of a long-term probe against companies willing to put this nation at risk in return for ill-gotten profit," said Donald T. Watson, assistant regional commissioner for enforcement.
"The sale of these unsafe counterfeit bolts represents a serious breach to the health, safety and well-being of our citizens," he said. "Bolts and fasteners manufactured here in the United States are far superior in all respects to the unsafe, imported counterfeit bolts uncovered in this investigation. U.S. manufacturers have suffered long enough from this type of unfair trade practice."
Many companies have been forced to close as a result of illegal competition, he said.
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service has said counterfeit fasteners have found their way into the National Test Facility of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) and numerous Department of Defense weapons systems. The fasteners are manufactured in the Far East, primarily in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
The findings of the investigation have been referred to the U.S. attorneys' offices in Salt Lake City, Denver, Cheyenne and St. Louis for presentation to federal grand juries.