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Former Rockwell Official Convicted of Fraud

May 15, 1987|KIM MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

A former Rockwell International purchasing manager was convicted Thursday of funneling $500,000 in Air Force B-1 bomber contracts to a company in which he held a hidden partnership.

A federal jury found Ralph Affinito, 46, guilty of five counts of mail fraud as part of an elaborate contracting scheme in which he established an outside machine shop to bid on contracts for the bomber, then secretly diverted the work to firms that had not been approved for government work.

Affinito, a Rolling Hills Estates resident, was acquitted of an additional charge of conspiracy in which government prosecutors alleged that he accepted more than $20,000 in bribes and kickbacks during his earlier years as a purchasing supervisor for Hughes Aircraft Co.

The longtime defense industry supervisor was the last of 19 defense industry employees to be convicted in what federal officials described as the largest investigation ever undertaken into corruption in the awarding of defense contracts. The yearlong operation was code-named Operation DEFCON.

During a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., Affinito's one-time neighbor, Ward Finch, testified that Affinito approached him in 1982 about opening a machine shop in which Affinito would act as a secret partner until his retirement from Rockwell.

According to Finch, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the case, Affinito offered to share in financing the shop and help win federal approval as a subcontractor on the B-1 Bomber with an eye toward taking over the business after retirement.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in B-1 contracts were eventually awarded to the shop, many of them with Affinito's help, but federal prosecutors said the company illegally sent the actual work out to other companies, many of whom did not have federal approval to work as defense subcontractors.

Affinito faces a maximum sentence of 25 years and a $5,000 fine when sentenced July 13.

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