A federal jury has found a Granite Bay man guilty of a conspiracy to commit fraud in a case involving aircraft parts repairs.
The conviction Monday of William Hugh Weygandt, 64, followed a three-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez in Sacramento, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.
According to evidence presented during the trial, Weygandt is the former owner and president of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., a Federal Aviation Administration-certified air repair station with facilities in Lincoln and Burbank. WECO was founded by Weygandt's father in 1974 in Burbank. Weygandt eventually became president and sole owner of the firm.
In January 2007, Weygandt sold WECO to Gulfstreatm Aerospace Corp. but remained president of the company until Feb. 1, 2008.
As an FAA Part 145 repair station, WECO was required to follow published FAA regulations that include tests and inspections that must be conducted before a repaired part can be returned and reinstalled in an aircraft. According to its repair station certificate, WECO was permitted to repair certain types of aircraft parts, including starter generators, which are used to start an aircraft engine and then convert to generating electricity during the aircraft's operations, authorities said. The firm also repaired converters, which provide elecitricity to the aircraft during flight.
Starter generators repaired by WECO were used on various types of aircraft, including small helicopters used by tour companies and law enforcement agencies, while the converters were primarily used in the Gulfstream G4 airplane, authorities said.
Evidence presented 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, the firm did not even have equipment capable of performing some of the tests required by the manufacturer's Component Maintenance Manual. Employees at both locations, however, performed repairs and returned parts to customers, falsely certifying to the customers that their parts had been repaired in accordance the maintenance manuals.
Authorities said evidence showed that Weygandt had been aware of the equipment needs at the Burbank facility since 1985 and at the Lincoln facility since the mid-1990s, and that his employees were making false certifications. Nevertheless, he continued to operate the company without taking steps to comply with FAA regulations.
According to testimony at trial, equipment issues were raised directly with Weygandt, as well as in daily production meetings, which Weygandt frequently attended, but he failed to authorize purchase of the necessary equipment.
Evidence at trial showed that Weygandt earned approximately $650,000 in 2004, 2005 and 2006, then sold his company in 2007 to Gulfstream for $17 million. The estimated cost of the equipment necessary to perform the proper tests was $300,000, according to federal authorities.
Authorities said 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, authorities said, since finalizing its purchase of WECO in 2008, Gulfstream fully cooperated with the FAA and law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
The alleged conduct occurred primarily before Gulfstream's acquisition of WECO, and none of the defendants charged in the case are currently employed with the firm.
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.
Weygandt is to be sentenced Feb. 18.