The former owner of a Lincoln company that repairs airplane parts was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento federal court to 2 1/2 years in prison for returning parts to customers that had not been properly fixed.
After a three-week trial, a jury found William Hugh Weygandt guilty of conspiring to pass the parts off as ready for use in accord with Federal Aviation Administration standards.
There are no known instances in which the fraudulent repair of a part certified as airworthy by WECO Aerospace Systems Inc. resulted in an accident.
“We are all fortunate,” remarked Monica Miller, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Sacramento office.
Weygandt’s lawyers claim the parts did not carry a risk of causing an accident.
Weygandt, a 64-year-old Granite Bay resident, had no prior criminal record. His lawyers argued vociferously for probation only, maintaining he was not part of a conspiracy.
The government fought hard for a longer term of imprisonment.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez also rejected the government’s request for a $250,000 fine. The judge set a Sept. 16 hearing on the issue of restitution.
Mendez ticked off a number of factors that he said were positives for Weygandt.
“Your history and character weigh in your favor,” the judge told Weygandt. “You have had steady employment and are a devoted family man. You have performed a number of charitable acts. You have already suffered by virtue of the damage to your reputation and finances.”
He also said Weygandt is not a danger to society and will not reoffend.
On the other hand, Mendez said, Weygandt must do some time behind bars.
“The jury verdict, conviction and evidence demonstrated that he was the leader of a company engaged in a criminal fraud conspiracy over a number of years,” the judge said. “This was, remains, and will always be a serious offense.”
Mendez set the sentencing range under federal guidelines at 57 to 71 months, but then went more than two years below the range for the term.
Mendez said one of his goals was to avoid disparate punishment among Weygandt and three co-defendants. But those three pleaded guilty, cooperated in the prosecution of Weygandt and are awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors Kyle Reardon and Michele Beckwith at first wanted 20 years for Weygandt. But they scaled back to 15, as that was the statutory maximum. They then reluctantly dropped to 10 after defense lawyers contended that is the maximum.
When Mendez set a range of 57 to 71 months at Tuesday’s hearing, he asked Reardon for yet another recommendation. The prosecutor requested 83 months, saying he would at least like to get a year beyond the guideline range.
“The court needs to send a message,” Reardon said. “This case has been closely watched by the (aircraft) industry. (Weygandt) had the sole authority to fix the problem. He wanted to squeeze a few more pennies into his $600,000 salary.”
To properly do the work, WECO needed additional equipment costing between $200,000 and $300,000, and, according to evidence presented by the government at the trial, Weygandt refused to purchase the equipment.
“This defendant had every advantage and knew how to do it right,” Reardon told the judge. “Instead, he chose to continue this fraud for more than 20 years simply out of greed.”
Weygandt lawyer Craig Denney insisted prosecutors wanted a lengthy prison term simply because his client chose to go to trial rather than plead guilty as his co-defendants did.
Reardon’s argument “is disguised as a deterrence argument, but it is a trial-penalty argument,” Denney said.
Weygandt “wanted to make sure the equipment was necessary rather than discretionary,” he said. “He would have provided it had he known it was critical to the operation.”
Denney said Weygandt was never part of a conspiracy but is a “convenient foil” for the other defendants and for Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., which bought WECO in January 2007.