Three charged in theft of fighter jet parts for simulators
The three are accused of devising a scheme to divert demilitarized F-14 and F-18 cockpits and components to one of the men in exchange for cash and gifts, the indictment says. The parts normally are sold for scrap.
By Tim McGlone
© September 4, 2009
Three men, including a former sailor and a former aviation museum director, have been charged in a federal indictment with conspiring to steal old fighter cockpits, machine guns and other jet parts.
Wayne Miller, former executive director of the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey, is accused of bribing the two others to get parts for his side business building flight simulators, the indictment says. Miller was arrested Thursday in New Jersey.
Virginia Beach resident Jody Goucher, a former manager for L3 Communications who was in charge of the fighter jet scrapping program, was arrested Thursday. He made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court and was released on a $5,000 bond.
The third suspect, Matthew Sutton, a retired sailor, was arrested in Texas on Thursday. Each is charged with conspiracy, theft of public property and related counts.
The alleged scheme began in 2004 when Miller, using Navy contacts he knew through the museum, met Goucher and Sutton at Oceana Naval Air Station. Miller told them he was having difficulty obtaining jet fighter parts through official channels, the indictment says.
At the time, Goucher was in charge of the Stricken Aircraft Reclamation and Disposal Program, also known as SARDIP, through Navy contractor Titan Corp., which was later purchased by L3 Communications. Sutton was Goucher’s Navy counterpart.
The three are accused of devising a scheme to divert demilitarized F-14 and F-18 cockpits and components to Miller in exchange for cash and gifts, the indictment says. Two unindicted co-conspirators, who were not named, were also involved. The parts normally would have been sold for scrap.
The indictment says Miller wanted to use the parts “to start a business involving aircraft simulators constructed from authentic Navy fighter aircraft cockpits and components.”
Miller is accused of paying Goucher $500 per cockpit and one of the unidentified co-conspirators $2,000 each time to cut the cockpit out of the jet. Miller also paid for trips for the others and supplied one with a flat-screen television and another with an iPod, the indictment says.
Sutton is accused of supplying Miller with other jet parts, including an ejection seat, rudder pedals, a compass, a control stick, a tailhook and cannon parts, the indictment says.
Sutton is also charged with giving Miller two jet-mounted Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon machine guns that should have been destroyed. The guns are capable of firing 6,600 rounds a minute.
Federal authorities obtained e-mails between Goucher and Miller to be used as evidence against them.
In one, the indictment says, Goucher asked Miller: “After I get you this first F-14 are you gonna still send me and my wife to St. Martin?”
When a deal in 2005 got delayed, Miller’s frustration showed in another e-mail: “I guess that means your not interested in the deal and I will not waste your time and suggest you not waste mine,” the indictment says Miller wrote.
The deals continued through 2008, according to the indictment, with Sutton sometimes renting a truck to deliver the jet parts to Miller’s home in Red Bank, N.J.
Miller obtained two F-14 cockpits and one F-18 cockpit plus an assortment of parts, the indictment says. It’s unclear where those items are now.
An assistant U.S. attorney declined to comment on the case Thursday after the court proceeding. An official at L3 Communications would say only that Goucher is no longer employed there.
Shea Oakley, executive director of the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum, located at the Teterboro Airport, said he was aware of the investigation.
“I’m not in a position to discuss it,” he said.
Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343, firstname.lastname@example.org