Maker Of Parts For Osprey Pleads Guilty To Bribery
PHILADELPHIA - A metal machining company - whose ousted president has already been charged with bribing Boeing Helicopter officials to win subcontracts on the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft - agreed yesterday to plead guilty to new federal charges.
Tura Machine Co. of Folcroft, Pa., was charged yesterday with paying $237,140 in bribes to Foster Wheeler Energy Corp., a Livingston, N.J., defense contractor.
According to a federal indictment, Foster Wheeler, in exchange for the bribes, subcontracted a variety of work to Tura. The indictment did not specify the types of work, but Tura officials have said the company's subcontracts included refitting equipment for U.S. Navy ships.
Tura's plea agreement came eight weeks after the indictment of Tura's then-president, Kenneth Narzikul, 36, on charges that he bribed officials at Boeing Helicopter of suburban Ridley Park, Pa., throughout much of the 1980s. Boeing has acknowledged that it granted Tura millions of dollars in subcontracts for parts for the Osprey and military helicopters.
The charges involved in yesterday's plea agreement did not mention Tura's involvement with Boeing. Instead, it cited two bribes that Tura is alleged to have paid to a Foster Wheeling purchasing agent, one for $76,763 in 1989 and another for $160,377 in 1990.
It said Tura had concealed the kickback payments by filing phony invoices for fake consulting services.
Tura attorney James Backstrom said in a statement that the company "has cooperated fully in the investigation and agreed to pay a significant penalty." Backstrom did not state the amount of the penalty, but details were expected to be released soon.
Often when plea agreements are reached with companies in defense-related fraud cases, prosecutors will drop some of the charges in exchange for cooperation in continuing investigations.
A more detailed explanation of the bribery charges against Tura officials was contained in Narzikul's Aug. 4 indictment.
Narzikul was accused of bribing Foster Wheeler and of helping in a bribe-paying scheme for contracts with Boeing Helicopter. The indictment said Narzikul and his father, Isakjan, who died in 1989, paid bribes to Boeing purchasing agents throughout the 1980s in exchange for subcontracts for aircraft parts.
Tura, with annual sales of about $10 million, had made some of the most critical parts for five V-22 Ospreys that Boeing has produced. Boeing spokesman Robert Torgerson said nearly $1 million in Tura parts were used for high-stress connectors between the V-22 engines and rotor.
Of the five Ospreys that have been produced, two have crashed.
The Navy yesterday announced that a July 20 crash of a V-22 in the Potomac River south of Washington was caused by a mechanical failure. It was not clear whether any Tura parts might have been involved in the crash, which killed all seven men aboard.
Another V-22 crashed in 1991 at Boeing's flight test center at New Castle County Airport, south of Wilmington, Del. The Navy said it was caused by a miswired sensor - not produced by Tura - that was supposed to indicate how close the V-22's wing was to the ground.
Boeing's three remaining craft have been grounded. Construction on a sixth has been stopped.
The Pentagon has been trying to kill the Osprey program for years, complaining about politically motivated congressional demands to continue producing it despite massive cost overruns.
Boeing has acknowledged that it gave Tura preferential treatment on contracts, allowing it to participate in Boeing's minority set-aside program even though the federal government had rejected Tura's application to be classified as a minority-owned business.
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