U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced the former owner and president of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc. to two and a half years in prison, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
On November 4, 2013, after a three-week trial, a federal jury found William Hugh Weygandt, 64, of Granite Bay, guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts repair. A hearing to determine restitution is scheduled for September 16, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. Judge Mendez ordered Weygandt to surrender to begin serving his sentence on September 23, 2014.
At sentencing, Judge Mendez stated: “The jury verdict, conviction, and evidence demonstrated that Weygandt was the leader of a company engaged in fraud over a number of years. … He had the ability to stop the fraud. … This was, remains, and will always be a serious offense.”
WECO was a Federal Aviation Administration-certified repair business with facilities in Lincoln and Burbank, Calif. Weygandt began working for WECO upon its founding in 1974 by his father. By 2005, he was the president and sole owner. In January 2007, Weygandt sold the 75-employee company to Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation for approximately $17 million, and remained as president of the company until February 1, 2008.
According to evidence presented at trial, 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.
Evidence at trial established that WECO employees at both its Lincoln and Burbank repair stations 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. The evidence at trial showed that in spite of being aware of the lack of testing equipment at the Burbank facility since 1985 and at the Lincoln facility since the mid-1990s, Weygandt allowed repairs to continue and failed to respond to repeated requests from employees for the equipment necessary to perform repairs and overhauls in accordance with the FAA requirements.
“Federal aircraft part repair regulations are intended to promote aircraft safety,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “William Weygandt allowed his company to circumvent those regulations for profit. The sentence imposed today reflects the seriousness of the crime. FAA part repair regulations are not advisory, and those who ignore them do so at their peril.”
“The sentencing today of the former owner and president of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., William Hugh Weygandt, clearly demonstrates the severe penalties that await those who would seek to certify the repair and overhaul of aircraft parts illegally,” said William Swallow, Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Safety of the Nation’s air transportation system remains a priority of DOT and the OIG. Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues, we will continue our vigorous efforts to uncover suspect unapproved parts, prevent their use, and punish to the fullest extent of the law those who would seek to compromise the integrity of DOT’s safety programs.”
“This is a straightforward case in which Weygandt’s greed eclipsed his responsibility to ensure his crews had the necessary equipment to properly perform and certify repairs. His egregious and willful disregard of proper procedure and law jeopardized the lives and safety of pilots, passengers, and the unsuspecting public. We are all fortunate an accident did not occur,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Sacramento division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to identifying and thoroughly investigating anyone who intentionally circumvents safety regulations and laws to enhance profitability.”
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. Attorneys Kyle Reardon and Michele Beckwith prosecuted the case.
There have been no known instances in which a fraudulent WECO repair resulted in an aircraft accident. However, multiple aircraft operators testified at trial that had they known that WECO had not properly repaired their parts, they would not have used them. According to former FAA Official Anthony Broderick, a defense witness at the trial, FAA regulations like the ones implicated in this case are intended “to promote safety of flight in civil aviation in the United States.” 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 fully cooperated with the FAA, as well as law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of this case.
Former WECO executives Jerry Edward Kuwata, 60, of Granite Bay; Michael Dennis Maupin, 58, of Arbuckle; and Anthony Vincent Zito, 47, of Saugus, previously pleaded guilty to federal offenses in connection with the conspiracy and await sentencing.