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Brian Monks: Keeping Bogus Electronics Out of Consumers’ Hands

This engineer at Underwriters Labs is a counterfeiter’s worst nightmare

4 min read
Brian Monks: Keeping Bogus Electronics Out of Consumers’ Hands
Photo: David Yellen

Brian Monks, the vice president of anticounterfeiting operations for Underwriters Laboratories (UL), likes to tell a story about the man with seven suitcases. Arriving from Asia at San Francisco International Airport, the man was asked by customs officers if he had anything to declare. The man responded, “Nothing." The agents searched his seven bags anyway—and found each one filled to the brim with counterfeit circuit breakers.

The haul was just a fraction of the more than 300,000 bogus circuit breakers that U.S. customs seized that year, Monks notes. “That's 300,000 potential fires that didn't happen," he says, “300,000 disasters that could have destroyed people's lives."

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