23 August, 2004 – LAWFUEL – Best for legal news, law news, law, law research Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Robert Harris, United States Department of Defense – Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office, announced today that on August 20, 2004, defendant, Ralph Michael Cooper, was sentenced by United States Federal District Court Chief Judge William J. Zloch, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to a term of imprisonment of two and a half (2 ½) years as a result of Cooper’s participation in a fraudulent scheme to supply counterfeit and sub-standard aircraft parts to the United States Department of Defense, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 38(a)(1)(C). These parts, all of which consisted of flight-critical “application items,” included engine seals and o-rings for placement in a wide range of military aircraft, including F-16 and F-14 fighter jets, AWACS surveillance aircraft, Blackhawk attack helicopters, and Seahawk rescue helicopters. Pursuant to a stipulation with the government, Cooper admitted that the particular counterfeit parts that he had supplied to the Air Force, Army, Navy, and NASA were sufficiently critical and sub-standard so as to present “a conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury.” In addition to the prison term, Chief Judge Zloch ordered Cooper to serve a three (3) year term of supervised release and to make a restitution payment to the Department of Defense in the amount of $54,932.50.
On July 1, 2004, Cooper pleaded guilty to two (2) counts of the Indictment before Chief Judge Zloch. One of those counts charged Cooper with submitting to the Defense Department a fraudulently altered copy of an invoice/packing slip that falsely reflected that certain aircraft parts, namely, “plain encased seals” designated for placement in military helicopters, had been ordered from Chicago Rawhide Company (“Chicago Rawhide”), a Defense Department approved manufacturer of the parts, when, in fact, Cooper knew that such information was false, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 38(a)(1)(C). The second count to which Cooper pleaded guilty charged him with shipping such parts in packets that contained computer-generated labels that falsely represented the manufacturer of those parts as Chicago Rawhide, when, in fact, Cooper knew that such information was false, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 38(a)(1)(C).
According to statements made in court, Cooper submitted the winning bid for the supply of 1,505 “plain encased seals” which had been designated by the Defense Department as flight-critical items for use on the intermediate and tail rotor gear boxes of various UH-60 military helicopters, including the H-60A (Blackhawk) and H-60 (Seahawk). As directed by the Defense Department, Cooper was required to obtain the subject seals from the Chicago Rawhide Company, the only manufacturer of those seals approved by the Defense Department, and the Sikorsky Aircraft Company, the manufacturer of the referenced helicopters.
Notwithstanding the Defense Department’s directive, Cooper made arrangements with a non-approved manufacturer to produce counterfeit replications of the seals in a plant in Taiwan. These counterfeit seals, which contained markings identifying them as the approved Chicago Rawhide-manufactured item, were made from sub-standard nitrile rubber, which has marginal stress tolerance capabilities and questionable ability to withstand exposure to intense heat and hydraulic fluids normally associated with military aviation use. Cooper obtained these 1,505 fraudulently substituted counterfeit parts at a cost of slightly more than $1.00 each; he was paid over $54,000 by the Defense Department for the parts.
Cooper’s scheme also included other contracts in which Cooper supplied sub-standard counterfeit parts in a fashion similar to that alleged in the Indictment. These parts included parts destined for use in F-15 and F-16 jet aircraft, tanks, torpedoes, and NASA aircraft.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the United States Department of Defense – Defense Criminal Investigative Service, United States Air Force – Office of Special Investigations, United States Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, United States Army Criminal Investigations Division Command, National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Homeland Security. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Peter B. Outerbridge.