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U.S. Seizes Records at Northrop Plant, Sees Possible Fraud

December 24, 1986|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Federal agents have seized time cards, computer tapes, microfilm and documents at a Northrop plant in Georgia as part of a grand jury investigation into allegations that the Los Angeles-based aerospace firm may have defrauded the government, the FBI said Tuesday.

While declining to disclose the scope of the inquiry, officials said the raid was conducted Monday by agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations with help from FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors.

Weldon L. Kennedy, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI field office, said materials seized during the nine-hour raid at the Warner Robins, Ga., facility may constitute "evidence of a conspiracy to defraud the government" in violation of federal laws prohibiting false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud.

Grand Jury Investigation

Kennedy said the material will be presented to a federal grand jury at Macon.

The Associated Press quoted Assistant U.S. Atty. Miriam Duke as saying that "it is a criminal investigation." She added that the investigation involves "mischarging of labor costs on defense contracts" but did not say how much the government may have been overcharged.

Tony Cantafio, a spokesman at Northrop's headquarters in Century City, said:

"If there is any wrongdoing, we want to know about it and get on top of it. We will work with the FBI to establish all the facts."

Northrop, a leading defense contractor, builds fighter jets and electronic warfare equipment for the Pentagon and is developing the stealth bomber.

The Times disclosed last October that a Northrop contract to build a key part of the MX missile guidance system for the Air Force had encountered a series of technical setbacks and that questions about the company's performance were being examined by the FBI.

It could not be learned whether the Georgia search warrant was related to this investigation. Earlier this year, Northrop officials said the plants at Warner Robins had received a contract to modernize radar-jamming equipment for Air Force B-52 bombers through 1988.

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