Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sacramento, California: Former owner of Lincoln firm indicted for fraudulent aircraft repairs

A federal grand jury today returned a superseding indictment charging a Granite Bay man with conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts.

According to court documents, William Hugh Weygandt, 63, is the former owner and president of WECO Aeropsace Systems Inc., a Federal Aviation Administration-certified aircraft repair station based in Lincoln, which was purchased in 2007 by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.

Former WECO executives -- Jerry Edward Kuwata, 60 of Granite Bay; Michael Dennis Maupin, 58, of Arbuckle; Scott Hamilton Durham, 39, of Roseville; Christopher Warren MacQueen, 53, of Lincoln; Douglas Arthur Johnson 52, of Granite Bay; and Anthony Vincent Zito, 47 of Saugus -- were previously indicted by the grand jury in September 2011 for conspiracy and fraud involving airplane parts, and mail fraud. Kuwata, Durham, MacQueen and Johnson are also charged in the superseding indictment. Maupin and Zito have pleaded guilty to federal offenses and await sentencing, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

The FAA regulates air travel and publishes regulations that FAA-certified repair stations are required to follow. These regulations include the use of parts that are approved for repairs, as well as tests and inspections that repair stations are required to conduct before a repaired part can be returned and reinstalled in an aircraft.

According to its repair station certificate, WECO was permitted to repair, among other items, rotables and converters. Rotables are generally parts that convert a mechanical drive into electrical output such as generators, alternators, and rotary and linear actuators. Converters are components that supply electrical power to the systems on an aircraft that need it. In repairing these parts, a certified repair station is required to use FAA-approved parts.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants regularly directed WECO technicians to use unapproved parts in repairs. On one occasion, MacQueen allegedly used a paper clip instead of an approved part to complete a repair, and then returned the part to the customer after certifying that the repair had been properly done.

The superseding indictment also alleges that the defendants regularly failed to follow the manufacturer's component maintenance manuals and didn't have the equipment needed to perform the tests required by the manuals. The defendants, however, performed repairs, or directed WECO technicians to perform repairs, of parts and returned those parts to customers, allegedly completing false certifications that each part had been repaired in accordance with FAA regulations.

There have been no known instances in which a fraudulent WECO repair resulted in an aircraft accident, according to the news release. Upon learning of the allegations, the FAA issued an emergency order suspending WECO's repair station certificate.

In addition, since finalizing its purchase of WECO in 2008, Gulfstream has fully cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the case, authorities said. The conduct alleged in the superseding indictment occurred prior to Gulfstream's acquisition of WECO, and none of the defendants is currently employed at WECO.

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