U.S. to Dismiss All Charges in Jet Parts Deals
Federal prosecutors in Utah have agreed to dismiss all charges against a 60-year-old Westlake Village businessman who was accused along with his company of illegally shipping jet fighter parts to arms merchants in England and West Germany.
A 46-count indictment was handed down last August against Fred R. Williams and the Elgie Corp., of which he is president, and former company Vice President Dennis Evans. However, according to a stipulation signed earlier this week by Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard N. W. Lambert and defense lawyers, “subsequent investigation has raised a substantial doubt as to the guilt of the defendants.”
According to the stipulation, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, federal officials “have spent hours interviewing the defendants” and have “considered polygraph results that may tend to indicate innocence.”
The document further noted “the absence of evidence indicating a link with end users unfriendly to the United States,” a reference to suspicions that one Elgie customer in England was buying airplane parts for Iran.
Pleased by Decision
A lawyer representing Williams and Elgie, which has plants in Camarillo and Layton, Utah, said those accused were pleased by the government’s decision to seek dismissal.
“The defendants have always maintained that they had no criminal intent to violate any law and that Elgie Corp. is a legitimate business operation striving to operate within the law,” said Salt Lake City attorney Charles C. Brown.
There was confusion late Friday as to whether all formalities had been completed and the case had been dismissed. Williams and Brown said it had been. A court clerk said the dismissal order awaits the signature of U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene, who is away at a judicial conference.
Elgie, Williams and Evans had been charged with shipping parts for F-4 Phantom jets without the State Department license required for each such shipment.
Although “it is clear that the proper . . . licenses were not obtained . . . it is questionable whether the government can show an intent to knowingly and willfully violate the law,” the stipulation said.
‘Might Have Been Granted’
Moreover, had the licenses been sought, “they might well have been granted,” according to the stipulation.
As part of the agreement, Elgie said it would forfeit about $68,000 worth of airplane parts seized by the government during the investigation.
Elgie had been accused of making the unlicensed shipments from May, 1983, through November, 1984. Each of the 46 charges carried a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
In October, 1984, U.S. Customs agents seized F-4 parts at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport that were being shipped by Elgie to a London firm that once acted as a purchasing agent for Iran.
Customs officials later acknowledged that they had no evidence that the shipment would have gone to Iran.
Elgie’s business “has been seriously damaged during the last two years and we hope this action by the government will clarify the past and allow Elgie Corp. to resume its normal business operations,” according to the company statement.
According to Williams and Brown, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and the Air Force suspended Elgie from the list of eligible contractors after the indictment last year. However, they said, the logistics agency this week reinstated Elgie and the Air Force is expected to follow suit.
Elgie manufactures parts for out-of-production U.S. fighter planes, principally the F-4. According to Williams, annual sales of the company range from $2 million to $2.5 million, and 50 to 75 workers are employed at the Camarillo and Layton plants.