A former Lucas Western senior quality-control inspector has pleaded guilty to fraudulently tagging aircraft parts as having passed inspections, a crime that could get him up to 16 months in federal prison.
Eusebio "Al" Alonzo, who worked at Lucas Western's Park City plant until his 1993 dismissal, made his admission last week in U.S. District Court here.The fraud cheated the federal government out of millions of dollars and put fighter pilots at risk after Lucas Western's questionable gears were installed in the Navy's Hornet F/A-18s and the Air Force's F-117s, said federal prosecutor Kimberly Dunne.
Dunne declined to say whether more indictments are expected in the long Lucas Western controversy.
So far, the only company employees to personally face criminal liability have been Alonzo and Byron Harrison, a quality inspector at Lucas' Southern California plant.
"They indict a couple middle-management guys and the bigwigs walk," complained Alonzo's lawyer, Ron Yengich.
Prosecutors "don't tell you who the co-conspirators are because they've been bought off for $18 million," Yengich added, referring to the record fines Lucas Western paid in January 1995 to resolve a criminal complaint against the company.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson set sentencing for April 24, when Alonzo faces punishment of 10 to 16 months incarceration under federal sentencing guidelines. He could be ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution to the Defense Department.
In pleading guilty, Alonzo admitted "hot stamping" 3,000 parts, meaning he fraudulently tagged them to indicate they passed inspections when they were not inspected or failed to meet government specifications.
In 1993, government investigators uncovered the fraud motivated by the company's haste to boost production and revenues. About 50 Lucas employees from Park City were given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their grand-jury testimony in Los Angeles. Alonzo was never offered immunity or a lenient plea-bargain, so he never cooperated in the probe, said Yengich.
"My client did wrong at the direction of others," Yengich said. "Saying `someone told me to' never makes it right, but whoever benefited, it wasn't Al Alonzo."
Harrison, who pleaded guilty, was put on probation and owes the government $30,000 in restitution and $5,000 in fines.
Lucas Western produces gearboxes and other parts for commercial and military aircraft at its Park City plant.