William Albert Reinke, a high school dropout and convicted felon who received top-secret Pentagon clearance to work on the stealth bomber program, was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for defrauding the government.
Reinke, 56, of Brea was also ordered to repay $144,000 that the U.S. attorney's office says he overcharged the government on stealth bomber subcontracts he secured for Los Angeles-based Northrop Corp.
"I find it astonishing, almost frightening, that a person of Mr. Reinke's background was able to achieve his position," said U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson before imposing the sentence.
"I don't find Mr. Reinke astonishing," Wilson said. "The world is full of Mr. Reinkes. I find Northrop, Rockwell (International Corp. of Pittsburgh) and the government astonishing."
Reinke, who also held top-secret clearance for Rockwell for work as an engineer on a satellite system, could have received a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Toughest So Far
Even so, his sentence was the toughest handed out so far in California stemming from a sweeping federal investigation begun last year into corruption in aerospace defense contracts.
U.S. Atty. Fred D. Heather, who prosecuted Reinke and who is in charge of prosecuting 19 other former defense industry purchasing agents and suppliers indicted on bribery and kickback charges, argued for a stiff prison sentence.
Heather told the court that Reinke lied about his education and concealed a criminal record going back 40 years in his Northrop employment application. The case, Heather said, served to "undermine public confidence" in the nation's defense spending program.
"The national security of this country is not a free-fire zone for someone to hide his background in order to line his own pockets," Heather said.
Before announcing the sentence, Judge Wilson said the prosecutor should continue the investigation into Northrop and Rockwell to determine how Reinke got past top-secret clearances and onto the payrolls of the two giant military contractors.
Heather said outside court, however, that he could not comment on whether the investigation will turn in that direction.
The government charged that between April, 1984, and July, 1985, Reinke recommended to Northrop, which employed him, that RF Engineering of Orange County, of which Reinke was president, be awarded more than $600,000 in subcontracts for equipment used by Northrop on the stealth bomber. The secret aircraft, for which Northrop is the prime contractor, reportedly uses state-of-the-art technology that allows it to escape enemy radar detection.
Reinke's attorney, James D. Riddet, said his client readily admitted that he did not tell Northrop about this conflict of interest. "Clearly, (Northrop) had a right to know this information," Riddet said.
But Reinke and his attorney underscored that he had no intention of defrauding the government by inflating the cost of stealth components which, he claimed, he had to "modify for Northrop," thus incurring higher costs.
Fired, Then Hired
A government sentencing document released last week disclosed that Reinke was a 10th-grade dropout and ex-convict. The sentencing memorandum said Reinke was fired two years ago by Rockwell for inflating travel expenses and was then hired by Northrop, which apparently did not know about his Rockwell dismissal.
Reinke, the memo said, lied about his criminal record in his Feb. 28, 1984, job application at Northrop, declaring that he had "never been convicted on any charge by any court" when in fact he had "a long criminal record, including several felony convictions which resulted in prison terms."
Separately, as part of the government's ongoing investigation of bribery in the defense industry, three aerospace workers pleaded guilty at their federal arraignments Monday to tax evasion, accepting kickbacks on government contracts and mail fraud.
Walter E. Glass, 43, of Sun City, a former supervisor at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against another former Hughes supervisor, Ralph Affinito, 45, of Rolling Hills Estates, whose case has been set for trial in September. Affinito pleaded not guilty on Monday.
3 Kickback Charges
Ronald Gilbert, 53, of Canoga Park, a former manager of the purchasing department of Technology Service Corp. of Santa Monica, pleaded guilty to a charge of taking kickbacks on classified Pentagon projects.
James P. Huckabey, 51, of Cypress, a former senior buyer of Kaiser Electroprecision of Irvine, pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks on a component of the solid fuel rocket booster of the space shuttle.
Two other men pleaded not guilty in their cases. They are Ward Finch, 61, of Rancho Palos Verdes, owner of Draw Industries of Carson; and Carl Romero, 70, of Westminster, a former manager with Technology Service Corp. of Santa Monica.
One other defendant, Frank Joseph Mento, 58, of Covina, a former purchasing supervisor for Calcomp of Anaheim, was arraigned and said he would enter a plea on Wednesday.