CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Two local man have admitted they falsified testing records of aircraft parts intended to be installed on Black Hawk helicopters, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Samuel Escareno, 56, Robstown, entered his plea today, while Albert Flores, 59, Corpus Christi, pleaded guilty Oct. 29.
Flores and Escareno are both former supervisors at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD). At their respective pleas, they admitted they aided, abetted, counseled, commanded and induced others to make false entries and certifications related to UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter main rotor blade dynamic balance data sheets. As a result, nonconforming rotor blades appeared to meet specifications.
CCAD employees altered test sheets to make nonconforming blades appear to operate within specifications rather than return the blades to the shop for alteration or remanufacture. Because of the scheme, a total of 262 main rotor blades that failed to operate within specifications were shipped to Department of Defense installations worldwide between Jan. 7, 2012, and Oct. 7, 2014. These were to be installed on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Flores served as the CCAD Blade Division’s supervisor. Escareno was the team leader during this period. Following the discovery of the scheme, both were terminated.
CCAD employees that worked under Flores said he told them to manipulate dynamic balance data sheets. The operators understood that if testing revealed a blade did not meet specifications for “slope” or “load,” they were expected to manipulate the testing data sheet rather than send the blade back to the shop for alterations. Some operators reported that Flores occasionally altered testing data sheets himself and then gave them back for their signature and certification.
While serving as team leader, Escareno personally altered at least 30 testing data sheets and falsely certified the blades as operating within specifications. When the shop was busy, operators would give Escareno the data sheets for failing blades who would then alter them indicating passing. Escareno then gave the altered sheet back to the operators to certify.
“Today’s plea agreement is further evidence of the unwavering commitment between the US Army Criminal Investigations Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to seek accountability and justice for anyone whose actions may result in harm to our Nation’s most precious resource, the United States Warfighter,” said Special Agent in Charge Ray A. Rayos of US Army CID – Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU).
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales will sentence Flores on Jan. 27, 2021, while Escareno is set for March 17, 2021. Both men face a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
U.S. Army CID-MPFU conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting the case.