Monday Dec 19 2011
Fraud guilty plea in Lincoln WECO aircraft repair case
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Five other WECO Aerospace workers indicted by federal grand jury being prosecuted
One of six former employees of Lincoln’s WECO Aerospace Systems who prosecutors say needlessly took safety risks by making bogus airplane repairs has lodged a guilty plea. Anthony Vincent Zito, 48, of Saugus pleaded guilty Thursday to a single count of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate or foreign commerce. Zito is the first of the six to admit culpability in a case that the U.S. Department of Justice in Sacramento alleges was a deliberate attempt from 2004 and 2007 to criminally avoid required procedures during servicing of starter generators. According to the plea agreement, Zito conspired with others at WECO to conceal facts about the repairs from customers and the Federal Aviation Administration, and was aware that WECO’s Burbank division didn’t perform some tests that were necessary to comply with maintenance requirements. Zito also admitted that he was aware that WECO Burbank used parts that were not approved for service by the FAA, and charged customers for used parts as if they were new. Lauren Horwood of the Justice Department’s Sacramento office said total loss to customers at WECO Burbank for repairs and overhauls that were not done properly was about $1.38 million between 2004 and 2007. Customers include private aviation companies in California, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Arizona, as well the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Homeland Security. Also charged with conspiracy and fraud are 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. Horwood has previously stated that, on one occasion, Maupin and 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 done properly. Zito faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. Sentencing is scheduled for May 14 in Sacramento before U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller. WECO was founded in 1974 by father and son Hall and Bill Weygandt of Lincoln and sold to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in 2007. Neither Hal or Bill Weygandt, or another son, longtime Lincoln-area Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt – an employee of WECO from 1979 to 2004 – have been named in the indictment. No claims are being made by prosecutors that the fraudulent servicing resulted in crashes or in-flight problems.