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SIMI VALLEY : Aircraft Parts Firm Owner Pleads Guilty


The owner of a Simi Valley company pleaded guilty Monday to falsifying federal documents and selling uncertified airplane parts to McDonnell Douglas Corp.

Billie Wayne Puckett, owner of Tri Air Supply of Simi Valley, faces two counts of submitting false Federal Aviation Administration certifications for anti-vibration parts that were used in McDonnell Douglas DC-9 commercial aircraft.

Puckett, 63, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 7 in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Also, Tri Air Supply has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine to the government, Assistant U. S. Dist. Atty. George B. Newhouse Jr. said.

Between 1990 and 1994, the company allegedly sold McDonnell Douglas about $200,000 in unapproved "torque-arm housing caps," $750 parts that are used to prevent the DC-9's main landing gear from vibrating.

The makers of such parts have to be certified by the FAA to ensure that federal safety standards are being met. The parts sold by Tri Air Supply were allegedly made by an unauthorized maker, who charged the company about 50% of the regular price, Newhouse said.

Tri Air Supply then allegedly falsified the FAA documents and sold McDonnell Douglas the parts, said Newhouse. He said, however, the parts were not alleged to be flawed.

"They're middlemen, but they are required to sell a certified part," said Newhouse. "They were selling unapproved parts, and they would issue a false certificate."

The charges against Puckett and his company are part of "Operation BreakApart," a massive investigation targeting airplane parts companies allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud the FAA by selling bogus and unapproved equipment.

Various agencies, including the FBI, the U. S. Department of Transportation and the FAA, were involved in the yearlong probe that led to charges against Tri Air Supply, Newhouse said.

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