Former Operations Manager of WECO Repair Station Sentenced for Recklessly Endangering Aircraft
SACRAMENTO, CA—The former operations manager of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc. was sentenced today for conspiracy to destroy aircraft or aircraft facilities, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
United States District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Jerry Edward Kuwata, 64, of Granite Bay, to one year in prison. WECO was a Federal Aviation Administration-certified repair business with facilities in Lincoln and Burbank, California. According to court documents, WECO was permitted by the FAA to repair certain types of aircraft parts, including starter generators and converters, used on various types of aircraft, including small helicopters used by tour companies and law enforcement agencies. WECO employees regularly failed to follow FAA regulations in repairing and overhauling the aircraft parts. In many cases, WECO did not even have equipment capable of performing required tests. WECO employees at both locations nonetheless performed repairs and returned parts to customers, falsely certifying that the parts had passed tests and had been repaired in accordance FAA standards. There have been no known instances in which a fraudulent WECO repair resulted in an aircraft accident. However, WECO customers who testified at the trial of WECO’s owner, William Hugh Weygandt, 65, of Granite Bay, consistently testified that once they learned of the fraudulent repairs, they removed all WECO-repaired parts from their aircraft due to safety concerns.
At sentencing, Judge Mendez noted that Kuwata never took action to notify the FAA of the fraud, and expressed concern for the potential safety risks posed by such conduct.
A federal jury found Weygandt guilty at trial of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts repair. He was sentenced on July 8, 2014, to two and a half years in prison. Other former WECO executives Michael Dennis Maupin, of Arbuckle; and Anthony Vincent Zito, of Saugus, previously pleaded guilty to federal offenses in connection with the conspiracy and await sentencing.
This case is the product of an 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 U.S. Attorney Michele Beckwith is prosecuting the case.