PORTLAND, Ore. Federal prosecutors announced fraud charges Monday against two helicopter company employees accused of lying about the performance capabilities of helicopters hired by the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires, including one that crashed in 2008 in Northern California, killing nine.
The indictment from a federal grand jury in Medford, Ore., alleges that Steven Metheny and Levi Phillips submitted false information to win more than $20 million in contracts for seven helicopters.
Metheny, 42, the former vice president of West Coast Operations for Carson Helicopters Inc., and Phillips, 45, the director of maintenance, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the Forest Service.
The men face a maximum of 20 years in prison, if convicted on the conspiracy charge. Metheny could potentially get decades more on other related charges.
The helicopter went down August 2008 in the rugged Trinity Alps Wilderness near Weaverville. It was ferrying out firefighters who had been battling the Buckhorn fire. Forest Service officials at the time described the crash as one of the most disastrous of its kind in history.
Associated Press, Cathy Locke