A federal grand jury Thursday indicted Paul S. Visher, a former Hughes Aircraft executive, charging that he participated in a conspiracy that funneled $300,000 in illegal payments to a top official at an international satellite consortium to obtain the organization's "goodwill" in purchasing Hughes communications satellites.
The 10-count indictment alleges that Visher, who was a vice president at Los Angeles-based Hughes, authorized payments to several consultants in South America, who then passed the money back to Jose L. Alegrett, former deputy director of Intelsat, a multigovernment consortium that operates a fleet of satellites.
Alegrett was earlier convicted of fraud related to the construction of Intelsat's headquarters in Washington and sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Visher, 69, a resident of Gearhart, Ore., could not be reached for comment. Visher, formerly of Malibu, worked for Hughes from 1956 to 1987. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense in 1961 and 1962.
Hughes spokesman Richard Dore said: "We have no reason to believe that the company will be charged with any offense in this investigation." He added that Hughes had assisted in the investigation since 1987.
The indictment alleges that between 1974 and 1986--years when Hughes was seeking to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of satellites to Intelsat--Alegrett received 200 monthly checks that totaled $300,000. In return for those payments, Hughes received "goodwill" and "information," the Washington grand jury alleged.
The consultants and firms that participated in the scheme were identified as Guillermo Brockman of Nicaragua, J. L. Griffith Sucesores SA of Nicaragua and Radio Turismo of Venezuela.
The indictment also alleges that Visher and Alegrett obstructed justice after Hughes and federal authorities began their investigation by creating false reports from the phony consultants to suggest that the money had been paid for legitimate purposes. The indictment alleges that the two men forged signatures on the reports.
Finally, it says Visher caused the phony reports to be submitted to a grand jury in response to a subpoena.
If convicted, Visher faces a maximum penalty of 80 years in prison and fines of up to $2.5 million.