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Guilty Plea Entered in Kickback Case at Hughes Subsidiary

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From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A Gardena parts-making company and its owner pleaded guilty Monday to paying a $3,000 kickback to a standards engineer at Hughes Aircraft Co.’s Ground Systems Group in Fullerton.

James Spiropoulos, 60, of Palos Verdes admitted in U.S. District Court that he provided a kickback to Hughes engineer Donald Wright in exchange for Wright’s placing Spiropoulos’ company, Fastener Innovation Technology, on a list of approved parts suppliers for military computer-display systems.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen Mansfield said the Gardena firm, which has about two dozen employees, sold Hughes about $300,000 worth of low-tech hardware parts and fasteners in 1989 and 1990.

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Wright, a La Habra resident, pleaded guilty last December to two counts of accepting kickbacks from two other defense subcontractors: Bergquist Co. of Long Beach and Lyn-Tron Inc. of Burbank, both of which supplied parts for Navy computer-display systems.

In those two cases, both companies cooperated with federal officials investigating corruption in the defense industry. Neither company was accused of any wrongdoing.

Spiropoulos faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while his company faces a $500,000 fine.

Another company, Torrance-based EEI Inc., and its president, Bradley Rush, also have pleaded guilty to paying Wright a $750 kickback.

The investigation is continuing and charges may be filed against others, Mansfield said.

“I think it’s epidemic,” he said. “What we’ve learned in this investigation is that there is an enormous amount of kickbacks being paid in the defense industry. Don’t let the amount of $3,000 fool you. It’s made to one employee at Hughes on a periodic basis.”

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