Federal Grand Jury Indicts Former WECO Owner for Fraudulent Aircraft Repairs
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 10, 2012|
SACRAMENTO, CA—A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment today charging William Hugh Weygandt, 63, of Granite Bay, with conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, Weygandt is the former owner and president of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., a Federal Aviation Administration-certified air repair station based in Lincoln, which was purchased in 2007 by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. 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 on September 29, 2011, for conspiracy and fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and for 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.
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 into 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 either of these types of 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 that part to the customer after certifying that the repair had been done properly.
In addition, during the repair of an aircraft part, a certified repair station is required to comply with the manufacturer’s Component Maintenance Manual (CMM), a step-by-step guide for conducting a proper repair of the part that is prepared by the manufacturer and approved by the FAA. The CMM contains the steps that a repair shop must take to fix a part, as well as the tests and inspections that must be done before the part can be returned to service. The superseding indictment alleges that the defendants regularly failed to follow the manufacturer’s CMMs. Indeed, per the indictment, the defendants did not even have the equipment needed to perform many of the tests required by the CMMs. The defendants nonetheless performed repairs or directed WECO technicians to perform repairs of parts and returned those parts to customers, allegedly completing false certifications for each one that the 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. 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 this case. 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.
“Federal aircraft part repair regulations are intended to promote aircraft safety,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Any attempt to circumvent those regulations for profit deserves the highest scrutiny by federal law enforcement.”
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce of 15 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, and three years of supervised release. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of mail fraud is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and a three-year term 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.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.