First Defendant Pleads Guilty in Airplane Parts Fraud Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 19, 2011|
SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that Anthony Vincent Zito, 48, of Saugus, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate or foreign commerce.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation and the FBI, along with the Inspectors General of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense. Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Reardon is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents, WECO Aerospace Systems Inc. is an aircraft parts repair and overhaul business. Its customers included private, for-profit aviation companies in California, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Arizona, as well as government entities who operated aircraft such as the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Homeland Security. WECO’s primary repair station was in Lincoln, and it had a second repair station in Burbank. Zito started working for WECO in Burbank in 1994, and by 2008, he had become the WECO Burbank Facility Manager.
Under FAA regulations, repairs, and overhauls must be conducted in accordance with component maintenance manuals (CMM). These manuals direct the steps that a certified aviation repairman must take to complete a repair or overhaul of an aircraft part in order to ensure the highest level of safety for repaired and overhauled aircraft parts and to ensure the part’s airworthiness.
According to the plea agreement, Zito conspired with others in WECO to conceal certain facts about the repairs from customers and the FAA. Zito was aware that WECO Burbank did not perform some of the tests necessary to comply with the CMM, used parts that were not approved for service by the FAA, charged customers for used parts as if they were new, and falsely certified on FAA forms that parts had been repaired and overhauled in accordance with the CMM.
Records show that between 2004 and 2007, WECO Burbank serviced 610 150SG starter generators at an average cost to the client of $1,300, and they serviced 534 23-Series starter generators at an average cost to the client of $1,100. These units came from at least 79 different victims. The total loss to customers at WECO Burbank for repairs and overhauls that were not done properly was approximately $1,380,400.
Zito is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on May 14, 2012. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, and three years of supervised release. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Charges are pending against 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; and Douglas Arthur Johnson, 52, of Granite Bay. Their next court date is set for January 12, 2012. The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.