PHILADELPHIA — Six people and two companies were charged Thursday with selling defective electrical wire to the Defense Department for use in missiles, fighters and bombers, tanks, submarines and other sensitive weapons systems.
The low-quality wire and cable were used in Minuteman and Pershing 2 missiles, B-1 bombers, F-15 and A-10 fighters, Abrams M-1 tanks, cruise missiles and Poseidon nuclear submarines, officials said.
Because of the risks of using low-quality and defective wire in such critical applications, officials said, the Defense Department has issued an extensive series of recalls at military depots nationwide.
'Whole System Fails'
"It is a very dangerous situation. It poses a threat to the operations of these weapon systems," U.S. Atty. Edward G. Dennis Jr. said. "In guidance systems wires are the blood vessels. When one breaks the whole system fails."
No lives have been lost because of the defective equipment, but one piece of wiring caused a weapons system to fail on a naval vessel, Dennis said. Few details were available about that incident.
A federal grand jury charged the Delco Wire & Cable Co. and Delco Electronics Corp., both of Bristol, Pa., and six individuals, including the two owners of the companies, with conspiracy, mail fraud, making false statements to the government, bribery, racketeering, bid rigging and tax evasion.
Dennis said the companies were major suppliers of wire and cable to the military and had been doing business with the government since the early 1970s. The total value of the contracts was reported at $11 million.
"However, it is not alleged that all the wire was faulty," Dennis said.
None Sold Since 1984
Neither of the companies has sold equipment to the military since 1984 and all the defective wire and cable sold to the government was believed to have been replaced, Dennis said.
The indictment was the result of a four-year probe into bribery and bid rigging at the Defense Industrial Supply Center and the Defense Personnel Supply Center, both Philadelphia-based centers that supply material to all branches of the military worldwide.