A Garden Grove defense contractor and one of the firm's vice presidents have been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly falsifying reports to minimize the flaws in windshields it makes for B-1B bombers.
Swedlow Inc. and company Vice President Norman Gene Nixon, 53, of Orange, were each indicted Wednesday on four counts of making false statements to the federal government. The indictment handed down in Los Angeles alleges that Nixon directed employees to misrepresent the size of defects in four of the windshields it produced under a 1988 contract with the Air Force.
"Mr. Nixon denies he directed employees to prepare incorrect information," his attorney, Robert M. Talcott, said. "He intends to vigorously resist the charges and expects to be vindicated by a jury."
Swedlow lawyer Jack Gold said Thursday that the four windshields in question are perfectly fit for flight.
The government confirmed that the windshields, used as spares, were approved for installation. The charges were filed because the company allegedly falsified reports and made unauthorized repairs on the windshields. The company's contract with the Air Force required that it notify that service of any defect longer than four inches before making repairs.
"We think it's extremely unfair for them to use a cannon to kill a fly," Gold said. He added that the company believes that Nixon is innocent of the charges.
Nixon is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Oct. 23. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1-million fine, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Edward R. McGah Jr. Swedlow faces fines of up to $1 million.
The Swedlow indictment is the latest effort in a two-year crackdown on the sale of shoddy materials by defense companies and their subcontractors. Substandard items ranging from cracked jet engine blades to counterfeit nuts and bolts have been discovered in both commercial and military aircraft.
The Swedlow investigation began after one of its employees contacted the FBI in Santa Ana, alleging that Nixon was instructing workers to cover up the extent of the defects, according to law enforcement sources.
The windshields used in the B-1B bomber are made of numerous layers of transparent materials. Sometimes the materials do not bond correctly and separations occur. The Air Force required Swedlow to get its approval before repairing separations more than four inches long or one inch deep.
The company had told Air Force officials that 95% to 98% of all separations--formally known as delaminations--would be less than one inch in length, according to the indictment. "Swedlow also represented that a delamination as long as three inches would be highly unusual," the indictment adds.
But in July and August, four windshields developed separations longer than four inches, according to the government.
"Nixon held a meeting with other employees," in September, the indictment states. "Nixon directed the other employees to prepare written documentation reflecting delaminations within the contract specifications, and to repair the windshields without notifying the Air Force."
Swedlow is one of the nation's largest manufacturers of military aircraft windows. The company employs about 700 people in Garden Grove and has annual sales of about $55 million, Gold said.
In a Times ranking of Orange County defense contractors, Swedlow placed ninth with $30.5 million in contracts in fiscal 1987.
The company was acquired for $42.3 million in December, 1986, by a subsidiary of British conglomerate Pilkington Bros. PLC. The acquisition ended a 16-month effort by Chairman David A. Swedlow and his former wife to sell their 49% stake in the company.