A Brea man pleaded guilty Thursday to selling hundreds of flight-critical airplane parts after falsely certifying their age and condition.
Amanullah Khan, 54, is scheduled to return March 15 to U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, where he could be sentenced to as much as 120 years in federal prison, according to Douglas F. McCormick, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.
"People [who use] aircraft parts put a great deal of weight on the documents that certify their condition and origin," he said. "If a part breaks in your dishwasher, maybe you have to wash your dishes by hand. If a part breaks on your Honda Civic, maybe you have to get a tow truck. But if a part breaks on your 747 during final approach, well, that's a whole different ballgame."
Khan, who operated an Anaheim-based aircraft parts brokerage company called Aircraft & Electronics from 2000 to 2002, issued a series of false certifications and other documents for the parts he sold, McCormick said.
Among other things, the prosecutor said, Khan falsely certified that a critical helicopter part called a grip assembly was made of steel when, in fact, it was aluminum with a much shorter life span. Khan also sold jet engine parts called turbine blades and vanes, which he claimed were new when, in fact, they were used, McCormick said.
"If someone wants to pay you a nickel for an old aircraft part," he said, "there's nothing wrong with selling it to him for a nickel. There is something wrong, though, with selling it for $500 and telling him it's new."
McCormick said he was unaware of any accidents or mishaps resulting from Khan's false claims.
While some of the parts ended up in military aircraft, he said, others were sold abroad. "They've done what they can" to minimize the danger, he said. "The parts that could be traced have been recalled."
Khan came to the attention of authorities two years ago, McCormick said, when a customer complained to the Federal Aviation Administration that a helicopter grip assembly that was supposed to be steel was actually aluminum.
A man who worked with Khan -- Ziad Jamil Gammoh, 53, of Tustin -- pleaded guilty to the same charges last month and is scheduled for sentencing March 24.