Crime - Sacto 911

Kuwata sentenced to 1 year, 1 day in Lincoln aircraft repair fraud case

How much is it worth to cooperate with the government in a major white-collar prosecution?

In the case of Jerry Edward Kuwata, it turned out to be just slightly less time behind bars than the “big fish.”

Kuwata, 64, of Granite Bay, the former operations manager of a Lincoln-based aircraft parts repair business, was sentenced Tuesday to one year and one day in federal prison for conspiring to furnish customers with airplane parts that he and others knew to be faulty.

He pleaded guilty in October 2012 and testified for the government at the trial of WECO Aerospace Systems Inc. owner, William Hugh Weygandt, who was Kuwata’s immediate boss.

The jury found Weygandt, 65, of Granite Bay, guilty and he was sentenced last July 8 to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Kuwata signed off on a plea deal in October 2012, admitting in a written agreement that parts repairs at WECO plants in Lincoln and Burbank were not done in accordance with the components’ maintenance manuals and Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Yet, Kuwata admitted, the parts were returned to airplane operators and certified as air-worthy, which “recklessly endangered the safety of aircraft that used the parts.”

There have been “no known instances in which a fraudulent WECO repair resulted in an aircraft accident,” according to a press release Tuesday by the U. S. attorney’s office. Representatives of WECO customers testified at Weygandt’s trial that, once they learned the company’s certifications were lies, they removed the parts from their aircraft.

According to Kuwata’s plea agreement, the total loss to customers for fraudulent parts repairs and engine overhauls at WECO’s plants in Lincoln and Burbank was $10.3 million.

WECO’s customers included private, for-profit aviation companies in California, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Arizona, as well as government entities that operate aircraft, such as the city of Los Angeles and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. It also had customers in foreign countries.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.