LOS ANGELES (Nov. 12, 2009)—The owner of a Canoga Park, Calif.-based gasket and O-ring distributorship has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for allegedly repackaging and selling commercial O-rings as aircraft-grade O-rings.
Duane Lepire, president of Chats¼worth Rubber and Gasket Co., was sentenced in Los Angeles federal district court Nov. 9, about seven months after he pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, according to U.S. Assistant District Attorney Alka Sagar.
Lepire had been incarcerated since pleading guilty, according to Sagar. His plea agreement with the court states that he will not appeal his sentence except for extraordinary circumstances, she said.
The investigation began when a vibration dampener on a Boeing 737 began leaking, according to the district attorney. Boeing Corp. contacted the manufacturer of the vibration dampener, which in turn contacted Chatsworth Rubber, the supplier of the O-rings for the equipment.
When questioned, Lepire allegedly provided documents certifying the O-rings as aircraft-grade. The ensuing investigation, however, proved the documents to be false, Sagar said.
On Aug. 10, 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an Unapproved Parts Notification regarding O-rings allegedly distributed by Chats¼¼¼worth Rubber that were not in accordance with FAA specifications, the agency said.
“Several were labeled as 'Parker' (and some misspelled as Parkert) O-rings,” the FAA said in the notification document. Chatsworth Rubber sold the O-rings to several distributors and to manufacturers for a variety of military and commercial aviation applications, the document stated.
“Evidence indicates that Chatsworth Rubber may have deliberately altered material certifications and test reports to satisfy customer requirements,” the FAA said.
It cited specifications, batch numbers, cure dates and compounds allegedly added to the material certifications and test reports.
The FAA also issued a multipage list of affected O-rings with their parts numbers, as well as a long list of customers of Chatsworth Rubber.
Steve Lepire, Duane Lepire's son, could not be reached for comment. Steve Lepire, who was not indicted on any charges, is reportedly now in charge of Chatsworth Rubber.